Category: Metal / Electronic / Industrial
Blurb: In a word, this album is heavy – heavy on the volume, heavy on the aggression, heavy on the lyrical subject matter, heavy on the electronics, heavy on the precision… and may be, as a result, among the best in its genre.
While The Browning may not be the first band to experiment with the blending of extreme metal and various electronic genres, it has over the course of five years become one of the most ambitious and singularly heavy acts in the style that many refer to as electronicore. At face value, The Browning is the ordinary metalcore act, pummeling the listener with an incendiary assault of double-bass drumbeats, roaring vocals, and chugging guitars; but mixed with these recognizable displays of brutality is a firmly laid foundation of electronic textures encompassing EDM, trance, and even ambient, creating a sound that perhaps should not work as well as it does. Spearheaded by the band’s one consistent member, vocalist Jonny McBee, The Browning’s third album, Isolation is nothing if not heavy – not just heavy on aggression and volume, but in quantity… quantity of the metal and the electronic elements, making for what may be the most boisterous and burgeoning example of electronicore yet.
From a production standpoint, Isolation is quite a marvel; given the sheer force of the band’s organic instrumentation, for the electronics to shine as cleanly as they do in the mix is quite a feat. For an example, one need only listen to a song like “Vortex,” on which sweeps of synth filters and guitar scrapes somehow meld to create a biting sound that on its own is impressive enough, but in the context of the song with its pulsating rhythms and pulsating melodies gives the song a demonic edge, driven home by McBee’s juxtaposition of guttural roars and howling clean vocals. Similarly, the album’s first single, “Pure Evil” hits with a scathing EBM beat and bass line the likes of which would please many a Combichrist fan, the shouts of “I am pure evil” making for an anthemic hook too damn catchy to dismiss, while the sparkling piano arpeggios and swells of faux-string pads on “Fallout” add a symphonic edge to the song that, along with McBee’s clean vocals in the chorus, make for one of the album’s most apocalyptically satisfying moments. The changeups in tempo through several songs, like the offbeat EBM-laden “Cryosleep” and the opening “Cynica,” are part and parcel for most metal bands, but while they are not unheard of in electronic music, they do well to indicate The Browning’s sense of precision and intricacy; every song is that carefully constructed and structured. “Disconnect” even features a glitch-laden rap courtesy of Emmure’s Frankie Palmeri, while the guitars on “Pathologic” notably play more angular riffs amid reversed synths to produce an eerie effect that is only accentuated by the layers of choir pads and McBee’s shimmering bellows, twinkling synth arpeggios bringing the album to a bitterly excellent conclusion.
With lyrical themes pertaining to greed, selfishness, emotional disconnection, and (of course) the isolation that results from these facets of human behavior, Isolation is not for the feint of heart. Besides its dark themes, it once again can’t be understated that the music is simply vicious, unrelenting in its brutality on the senses. Those listening through headphones should take care lest their eardrums shatter under the weight of the album’s heaviness, but they will also be rewarded with the crystal clear production upon which every ingredient in The Browning’s musical concoction is readily heard. Simply put, Isolation may be one of the best produced albums of the year; it’s certainly The Browning’s finest outing to date, and should – in this writer’s opinion – unquestionably rank as among the best of its particular niche genre.