Automaton – Look To The Skies (EP)

October 7, 2013 in Reviews by blackwindmetal

Automaton - Look To The SkiesAutomaton – Look To The Skies EP (2013)

Reviewed by Daniel Millard

Even when it seems that everything has been done a hundred times in metal, we can still be surprised out of the middle of nowhere. And though neither Automaton’s style of USPM, nor their steampunk concept are wholly novel, the combined package is quite different than anything I’ve seen before. Look To The Skies consists of 4 metal songs, accompanied by four narrative/story tracks, and I believe I’ve even seen clips of a comic book (likely available from the band’s site) based on the concept as well.

In short, Automaton has put a significant amount of work into this EP. What the band lacks in audio production (and that’s not just the USPM aesthetic biting me), they make up for in eagerness. The upsides to this EP speak for themselves: reasonably hooky guitar lines, some memorable chorus work (opener “Age Of The Smokestacks” in particular), and enough variety thrown into the mix (the intro to “Journeyman”) to make this EP at least interesting enough for a couple of spins.

Unfortunately, there are a number of sticking point for me. Aside from the production and the hurried, somewhat unconvincing sounding nature of some of the spoken interludes, these mostly revolve around the vocal work. Singer Ryan Carney is not bad, but he does too much yelling and not enough singing for my taste. His falsetto is uncertain and varies in quality. On “Aether Flare”, it seems timid and weak, but “Journeyman” sees a much better attempt at the same. The backing/gang vocals that occur on some tracks are also a bit sketchy. The only vocals that I find legitimately *bad*, however, are the harsh grunts in “Rise Of The Ruined Nation”, when they take center stage (the backing growls are fine). Ironically, perhaps, the in-track spoken narration in this song is actually kind of neat – which is something that I normally object to.

More and more bands are going the way of Lorenguard, Heralds Of The Sword, and Automaton, by creating multimedia experiences for listeners (and viewers, or readers, by proxy). It’s a concept that has considerable promise, and I’m not counting Automaton out of the running like I did the mess that was Heralds Of The Sword’s debut. There’s some good melody here on Take The The Skies, and with some more confidence, polish, and power, a full-length from this Ohio four piece could be a bright spot on the conceptual horizon.

3.0 // 5