Nowadays, I'm honestly not sure where I stand with Born of Osiris. Over a decade ago, they released The New Reign EP, which I would consider fairly genre-defying. It created a new experimental standard for deathcore alongside the djent/prog fusion. Although albums like The Discovery and Tomorrow We Die Alive expanded on the band's technical and catchy characteristics respectively, it sort of feels like the band has become complacent in regards to experimentation. With the release of Soul Sphere, that complacency seems to be somewhat evident, especially with the overtly accessible "Throw Me in the Jungle" single.
Overall, I fear that the band peaked with their debut EP and hasn't strived to push boundaries as ambitiously as before. I approach Born of Osiris' fifth LP and this review with the optimism that hopefully, the group is able to break free from the rut they've been stuck in and forge music that nears the forward-thinking creativity of their earlier material. With that being said though, I do agree that it may be unfair for me to fully wish for the band to sound like they did years and lineup changes ago. I understand their style has slightly shifted to a chorus-driven identity, which may naturally occur with time and maturity. Yet, I do feel that Born of Osiris has the ability to create something more-so unpredictable and consistent in terms of quality than they have in recent releases.
For me, "Silence the Echo" was the perfect leading single for The Simulation. The choppy riffs and building tension was compelling and kept me on the edge. Admittedly, the chorus' vocal melody was a bit annoying, but other than that I think this track was very powerful and felt reminiscent to The New Reign. The other hard-hitting pieces in this LP would be "Disconnectome" and "Analogs in a Cell," which both show a step a more provoking direction. There are the occasional characteristics alike Tomorrow We Die Alive or Soul Sphere's songwriting and production, but there are plenty of pleasant surprises included as well like the black metal-esque bridge ("Disconnectome") and Tesseract influence ("Analogs in a Cell").
While the aforementioned songs were pushing the envelope for Born of Osiris' standards, there are a few songs that felt perhaps regressive or awkward. For example, the synthy leads and chorus within "Under the Gun" is easily the band's most mainstream sounding. Tracks such as "The Accursed" and "Cycles of Tragedy" near a similar issue. And although there is nothing inherently wrong with aiming for a more radio-friendly style, the contrast presents a Bring Me the Horizon-like identity crisis between their heavy, technical and sing-along songs. Other minor qualms I noticed with this album would be the robotic intro riff in "Silence the Echo" and the semi-awkward closer "One Without the Other."
Comparatively, The Simulation is rather enjoyable all the way through where the past few LPs were single-driven or at least had a good chunk of skippable tracks. I would genuinely be interested in hearing all these songs in a live setting and I don't think I could make that claim for any other Born of Osiris record besides The New Reign EP. In retrospection, the superior quality may be caused by a couple reasons. Firstly, the band focused on recreating The New Reign (i.e. The Eternal Reign) and toured extensively on it. This may have allowed the members to return and reflect on their roots.
Secondly, this album is severely shorter than their other LPs, to the extent of it being considered a 'mini-album', which may have caused a quality over quantity effect. In the end, I think the experimentation could have been pushed further and the concept could have been explored deeper, nonetheless The Simulation is stimulating throughout and ultimately has revived my opinion of the band for the better.