Technology has fully consumed our futile lives. Humanity has become a slave to likes, retweets, and and more likes and more retweets. As the blue light from cell phones and computers slowly burns out our eyes, we lose sight on the mechanical worm that has embedded itself within our primitive neural circuits.
For Long Island metal band Artificial Brain, the signs of humanity's demise have been in hiding in plain sight in popular literature and film. And their new album, Infrared Horizon, issues a forewarning to the dystopia that awaits should humanity continue its current trend. The technical death metal quintet features members of Revocation, Luminous Vault, and many other bands. Their ten-song effort features a number of guest musicians and represents a massive step forward, both musically and conceptually, from their stellar debut album in 2014, Labyrinth Constellation.
I caught up with Will Smith, the band's vocalist to talk about Infrared Horizon. Smith has been with Artificial Brain since the band's inception in 2011. He is responsible for crafting the story behind the band's sensational new album. In addition to Artificial Brain, he spends time in the grind band, Buckshot Facelift, and the OSDM band, Afterbirth. We set aside some time on a busy Thursday evening to talk about the narrative surrounding Infrared Horizon, the role of science fiction in society, and how a couple of television appearances and tours have bolstered the band's reputation in recent years.
Noisey: I remember reading about Labyrinth Constellation a couple years ago, the notes for the album referenced the band Nocturnus. They were one of the first death metal bands that incorporated science fiction themes into their music. Is there any influence on Artificial Brain from Nocturnus?
Will Smith: Definitely in my input to the band. I don't know how well-versed the other guys are. In terms of the artwork, lyrics, and incorporating that space theme into death metal, they were a huge influence on me. A friend of mine got The Key in '96 or '97 and we were mesmerized by that. It didn't have the devil or someone getting cut up on the front cover. It was this new thing. I don't know if, musically, the guys would consider them as much of an influence but in terms of the what Nocturnus did with the aesthetic, for me absolutely.
So, it's like your love of science fiction and Nocturnus meets Morbid Angel or Demilich?
Demilich was huge for me around that time. They were kind of space too, but they were a little more "ambiguous space." They were this weird entity. For the other guys like Dan Gargiulo (guitarist), and the other instrumentalists, Deathspell Omega and Gorguts were the two key influences.
That is very apparent in a lot of the music. Especially Infrared Horizon. There's a greater technical proficiency. You're coming off a lot of critical acclaim with Labyrinth Constellation and toured pretty heavily going into the recording process of this album. What goals did you all have for Infrared Horizon?
We all wanted it to be a naturally flowing album. I hesitate to use the term concept album, because it attaches a lot of weight to it and people will make it their own interpretation of it. Yet, in a way we wanted to make it a concept album. We want every song to be in tune with the rest of the album. We wanted the lyrics to be around a central theme, this sort of artificial intelligence and dystopian future. We definitely wanted it to be more coherent. Labyrinth Constellation is more of a collection of songs from when we started the band to when we recorded it. Infrared Horizon is the second album. We had less time to write and record but it was done more concisely.
The narrative tackles a dystopian future where robots and cyborgs have outlasted humans. Dystopia is a pretty frequent topic in popular science fiction. Do you have a favorite depiction of dystopia?
I grew up a huge fan of the Terminator movies. A lot could be read into those movies. You could take it at face value: a big Hollywood action movie, but there was a lot in there that piqued our curiosity. Our collective subconscious as a culture, those movies were huge. There are other little things too. Like Futurama, the Matt Groening show, you know?
Those are two of my personal favorites, it's cool you mentioned those.
We have a friend Paulo (Paguntalan) who sings for the band when I can't make a show. He does backup vocals and he's in a band with our bassist called Gath Šmânê. He curated all these episodes of Futurama, because he's followed the series for years, that dealt with artificial intelligence. He forwarded them on to me and it had a lot of influence on the writing. So, Futurama was huge. Dystopian future is a very common concept, like you said, because we feel that is where it's going. Whatever our personal interpretation of a -topian future is, I think it's going to be dystopian. Utopian future has bought the farm.
It definitely feels like it. We're so tied into technologies. Everyone is staring into their phones, no one interacts anymore.
Exactly, like with Terminator where they put this big, Hollywood budget behind it. You see it every day. All these kids are glued to the phone. Not even kids! I can't blame kids because I'm 34 years old and I have my phone all day. The fear is we're becoming disconnected from humanity because we're looking at our technology. That is being displayed for us on the big screens along with guns and other crazy stuff. It's revealing a real fear.
The lyrics for Infrared Horizon feels like what would have happened in iRobot had that Will Smith not stopped the robots.
[laughs] I'll be honest, this is the first time I'm admitting liking a Will Smith movie. I like some of his stuff but I get a lot of corny jokes about the name. That movie was good. That's a pretty good comparison, because what I wanted in Infrared Horizon was for the humans to be long gone. I wanted it to be from the perspective of robotic beings. There's also a lot of stuff in the news now about how they might be able to store your consciousness into a computer and upload it into a robot.
Dr. Martine Rothblatt, the woman who invented Sirius XM, is behind uploading one's consciousness into robots. It's strange and intriguing stuff. I saw her give a talk on it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like by the end of Infrared Horizon, even the robots and cyborgs are dying off.
I don't want to unlock too many mysteries but the last song on the album is about volcanoes. It's not about robots. Finding out exactly how that ties into the concept of the album, you might be on to something there. It's like that saying, "World War 3 is going to be fought with nuclear bombs, World War 4 is going to be fought with sticks and stones." The ending of the album, even though its volcanoes, doesn't break from the concept of the album. I tried to put a lot of things in the lyrics that, after repeated readings, you'll get something more out of it. I'm a big fan of when people reference their other works in their writing.
It sounds like the Earth takes back itself.
That's a good way to put it, definitely.
With the album coming out, are you all planning to tour as much as you did with Labyrinth Constellation? It seemed like you all were always on the road.
We created that illusion very well. We did two lengthy, North American tours. One with Gigan and Pyrrhon then we did one with The Black Dahlia Murder which was a blessing for us. We all work jobs and go to school so it's tough to do tours like that. We tag onto "weekend warrior" packages where we go out from Thursday to Sunday. Perhaps a week at a time. It's much easier to swing with vacation time from work or school. We did the best we could. We have a lot of great North American shows coming up I'm looking forward to. We'll be doing some regional stuff soon.
Speaking of the Black Dahlia Murder, you got Trevor (Strnad) for the title track of the new album. Did the tour together spark this?
Yeah, we snagged him! Dan knew Trevor before the rest of us did. Then when Labyrinth Constellation came out, I knew he was into the album. He gave us the opportunity to be on that tour. It was a blessing and opened a lot of doors for us. A lot of The Black Dahlia Murder fans would wait outside hours before the show. They have a die-hard, loyal fan base because of how they treat their fans. That whole market of people was exposed to Artificial Brain and it was great. We all got along together on that tour then things sort of happened naturally to get him for the album.
Lastly, I've wanted to know this for a while. How did you all end up on Elementary and Limitless?
Craig Sweeny was a writer at the shows and is a big death metal and Artificial Brain fan. He pursued writing as a career and got to write for shows like Limitless and Elementary. He had enough input to get our music in the show. We got a lot of exposure from it. It was great.
Cody Davis is melting his mind every day on the internet, too. Follow him on Twitter.