Automata (Metal Blade)
By Mike Delano
Double albums emerge when a band thinks they have too many ideas for the human brain to comprehend over the course of a single album, so they get spread out. Sometimes it works (Mellon Collie, Use Your Illusion), provided you’re willing to sit back and enjoy the sprawl, and other times (Nostradamus), the band just doesn’t have enough worthwhile material to justify the extra plastic. Although it’s a single disc, Return to Earth‘s Automata feels at first like a double album in disguise, what with its wildly varying styles (shades of black metal, Faith No More, and Ministry, all in the first track), apparent overreaching thematic concept and even artsy instrumental interludes (“1.0,” “2.0” and “3.0”). It doesn’t take long for that dream of greatness to fade, though, since once the band settles on its direction (bland, slightly electro-fried radio rock), Automata is a snoozer. The “us against the world” theme of most of the songs is delivered via entirely toothless vocals and compositions, with only drummer Chris Pennie (formerly of The Dillinger Escape Plan, currently of Coheed and Cambria) sounding like he’s having any fun. Songs like “Night of the Exploding Razors” and “Snakeface” are supposed to be rousing fist-pumpers, but you’re more likely to be left with a limp noodle. Limper still if you make it through sappy numbers like “The Replicas” and the starry-eyed “So Close,” whose hammy tendencies (“you’re all I neeeeeeeed!”) would be easier to forgive if they were the least bit catchy or affecting.