Review by Lawrence Stillman on November 30, 2023.
Alternate title: When Man and Machine Collide
After Justin McKinney fell out with Michael Keene (with a spectacular tirade against him, no less), it seems that McKinney wanted to create an album that picks up what The Faceless abandoned, that being the style of prog/tech death that The Faceless did in "Planetary Duality" and "Autotheism", but in a more refined way that improved on what Keene did. Datalysium is that improvement, and what an improvement it is from "Planetary Duality" and "Autotheism".
This album, while leaning more on the tech side of death metal, also incorporates a lot of progressive elements that stick out among most tech death albums in recent years. While it still engages in odd rhythms, weird time signatures, and twisted progressions, it does not always do that throughout the album, which makes this album a constant surprise that keeps you on your toes. For example, the album begins with a regular-sounding tech death song in 'An Axiom Of Error', but then it seamlessly connects to 'Algorithmic Salvation', which is a groovy and percussive song that also kept its tech death edge. The constant stylistic shifts gave it a feeling reminiscent of The Faceless, which is no surprise as three-quarters of the lineup used to be in The Faceless, and they seemed to have learned a lot from Michael Keene.
One thing that stood out to me compared to Solipsist was the inclusion of synths in the album. They do not stand out much, but they are a significant enough presence that gave the album another good layer of atmosphere that shines in a proggy song like the title track or 'Deletion Cult'. The synths here also sound very cyberpunk/futuristic, which also fits the album thematically considering it is about the connection between machine and man. The guitars here also sound sharp and have a higher tuning than usual for a tech death band, which also leads to the bass being very audible since the lower end of the sound spectrum is taken up less by the guitars, and now the bass has more space to make its presence known.
But if there is one gripe I have about the album, it's the drums, and I was dreading this as soon as I saw "Drum Programming: Justin McKinney". And my fears were proven true when the programmed drums started playing parts that should never be possible. By that, I mean parts like the crash cymbal, china, and snare drum being hit together, which require three different hands, and this was my biggest gripe with programmed drums because a good amount of them don't know how drums are played by a real person. But besides that, the drums do sound very realistic; props to McKinney and the producer for making the drum samples sound as realistic as they can.
While I am sad about The Faceless facing its second mass departure within ten years (which is big since mass departures are very rare and you have to be an exceptionally shy individual if your former bandmates have nothing good to say to you, unlike Stefan Kummerer of Obscura, whose two former bandmates from "Omnivium" rejoined him), one part of me was glad that it happened; otherwise, half the lineup would not join McKinney in The Zenith Passage and create this album and Solipsist for us to enjoy, along with improving what Michael Keene has built upon.
With all that said, fuck Michael Keene.
Highlights: 'Datalysium', 'Deletion Cult', 'Algorithmic Salvation'
Rating: 9.9 out of 10273