Trying to classify exactly what genre of technical death metal Allegaeon falls into is about as difficult as it is to figure out how to pronounce their name (I think it’s A-Legion but I’ve also heard people call them Alle-gae-on, or even Alle-gone). What isn’t difficult is recognizing the amount of talent in this band. The musicianship alone is mind-blowing. Add the catchy songwriting, a great sense of humor, and a vocabulary of words you’ve probably never heard in your life, and it’s hard not to be intrigued by this five piece from Fort Collins, Colorado. Allegaeon grabbed my attention right away when I heard their debut album, Fragments Of Form and Function in 2010. They made a fan out me after only a few tracks. Their unique blend of melodic death metal, progressive death metal, technical death metal and whatever else, gives them a one of a kind sound that they haven’t strayed too far from over the years. On September 23rd Allegaeon released their fourth full-length album, Proponent For Sentience through Metal Blade Records. The first album with their brand new vocalist and the first album to introduce clean vocals into the band’s trademark sound.
After lead vocalist Ezra Haynes left Allegaeon in 2015 I was skeptical that they’d find a decent replacement but they quickly put me and most other fans at ease when they announced Riley McShane would be their new frontman. Riley has a similar vocal style to Ezra with slight differences but a fairly close match. While sounding similar to Ezra, Riley brings a wider range to his vocals (including cleans) so the possibilities for musical exploration is greater than ever. Aside from Riley McShane the lineup from Elements Of The Infinite remains intact with Greg Burgess and Michael Stancel on guitars, Corey Archuleta on bass and Brandon Park on drums.
Allegaeon have always had a common theme of science and the unknown to their songs. On Proponent For Sentience, they take that theme a step further by doing a “sci-fi” concept album. The album centers around the three main tracks, “Proponent Of Sentience 1 – The Conception,” ” 2 – The Algorithm,” and “3 – The Extermination.” The concept is basically a science fiction commentary on what could very well be the near future for mankind.
Proponent For Sentience is everything you’ve come to expect from Allegaeon plus a few new twists to keep things interesting. One of the biggest twists is the addition of clean vocals on a few tracks. We only get to hear Riley McShane do clean vocals on two tracks, “Cognative Computations” and the Rush cover, “Subdivisions.” The small taste we get sounds comfortable for both McShane and the band alike. There is also a third track with clean guest vocals from Bjorn Strid (Soilwork) on “Proponent Of Sentience 3 – The Extermination.” “The Extermination” also features a guest guitar solo from The Black Dahlia Murder and Cannabis Corpse shredder, Brandon Ellis. This track has a very different vibe musically for Allegaeon which in my opinion doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album. It’s definitely not that the song is bad. From a technical standpoint it holds up with their best material, it just sounds so different compared to every other track. I welcome the different sound on the Rush cover of “Subdivisions” however. The main reason I make an exception here is because Rush is a vastly different band than Allegaeon and well, they’re doing a cover. Plus, they do a wicked job and Riley McShane gives us a good example of his range with clean vocals.
Allegaeon has arguably one of the best metal guitar duos in metal at the moment and they’ve developed their sound to build around their incredible guitar skills since the beginning. Proponent For Sentience is no exception. Both Greg Burgess and Michael Stancel‘s guitar acrobatics are on full display throughout the album. On my favorite track, “Grey Matter Mechanics,” Greg Burgess dazzles us with flamenco guitar throughout the song. It’s a great composition with killer riffs, really catchy vocal patterns and dynamite, precise drumming by Brandon Park. “All Hail Science,” “Of Mind And Matrix,” “Proponent For Sentience 1 – The Conception,” and “Terrathaw And The Quake,” are a few other personal favorites on Proponent For Sentience. The former, “All Hail Science” is an onslaught of blast beats and shredding guitars with a chanting chorus that is sure to be a hit at the live shows.
My only negative criticism on Proponent For Sentience aside from “Proponent Of Sentience 3 – The Extermination” sounding out-of-place, would be the flat production. When the music is this technical and elaborate it’s nice to be able to hear everything clearly. I find it a little ironic that Allegaeon‘s whole image is based on the advancement of technology and science yet they make very un-advanced sounding records. I’ve heard a lot of criticism over the length of Proponent For Sentience with the album clocking in at an hour and almost eleven minutes. Personally, I feel like the album flows smoothly for the most part and I never found myself losing interest or wishing they trimmed parts. Proponent For Sentience definitely doesn’t feel long, it flies by and with the music being so elaborate the length is totally justifiable. Plus you get more music for your money so what are you whining about?
Overall Proponent For Sentience is a damn good album. Is it their best album yet? I would say no. Fragments Of Form And Function is still my favorite but Proponent For Sentience is surely a worthy contender. Aside from the mediocre production, this album crushes, so naturally, I had to give it 665/666 horns way up. You can pick up a copy of Proponent For Sentience through the Amazon link in the sidebar. It will be interesting to see where Allegaeon takes their musical direction next with their new voice and subtle differences in their music. One thing is for sure, Allegaeon will continue to rise in the metal world with their masterful musicianship and catchy songwriting ability. They have the perfect balance. All hail, Allegaeon.
Shawn “Short-Fuse” Carter