Album Review: Lower Automation – “Lower Automation” 8/10 (mathcore/noise)

Written by John Angel

Lower Automation Lower Automation

Mathcore/noise from Chicago

Releasing via Zegema Beach Records

Releases July 12, 2021

8/10

I cover a lot of death metal and prog leaning music here at Noob Heavy and I bet some of y’all don’t know that I have a soft spot for the many ‘core bands. When I was in high school in the mid Aughts metalcore was king, Every Time I Die and The Dillinger Escape Plan were hitting their stride, and there were a metric fuckton of hardcore/slam bands in my area. All that to say I love me a good breakdown and I’m thrilled to cover Chicago’s Lower Automation and their self-titled full-length full of mathcore/noise rock goodness!

Although this is Lower Automation’s first full-length release they have two excellent EPs out, making the LP their third overall. The group consists of vocalist/guitarist Derek Allen, bassist Brian Sutton, and drummer Andy. I assume Andy has a last name but I can’t find it. Lower Automation chose not to release a personnel listing with their EPK and I can’t find his last name anywhere on their social media. Mysterious. However, I can report that Andy is real good at drums. 

Lower Automation floats seamlessly between artsy, post-hardcore, in-your-face punk, and batshit insane mathcore passages. It offers something for everyone! Coming right out of the gate with a burner in “6 Degrees from Phrenology” the record rarely relents in its frantic, frenetic textures. This track starts with some chaotic riffing a la TDEP before launching into some super noisy sections and an absolute banger of a chorus. Speaking of choruses, the one in “Old Sparky” gives me serious At the Drive-In vibes with its powerful chord stabs from the rhythm section, floaty figuration in the lead guitar, and soaring vocal melody that’s just on the cusp of being out of control. 

One of the first things that catches my ear when listening to Lower Automation is Derek Allen’s use of his voice. The promo email for this record lists The Dillinger Escape Plan first in the “for fans of” section and this led me to believe that we’d be hearing some higher pitched, fry-style screaming. That’s not the case at all. Allen has an aggressive yell that he uses in place of a scream. Every aggressive phrase he yells has a sing-song lilt to it and his delivery preserves more pitch information than you’d hear if he used a more traditional harsh vocal technique. Lower Automation’s tracks are served well by this vocal style, in my humble opinion. Allen’s performance displays a wide range of dynamics and vocal color that he is able to draw from. Closing track “Ruiner” puts his vocal palette to excellent use. He goes from his yell to a hushed, delicate melody all in the first 10 seconds of the track and it seems like he pulls out most every sound he’s got for this tune. 

Allen’s guitar work on the record is superb as well. He uses every inch of the fretboard and paints with a wide palette of tonal colors. Sutton’s bass playing melds seamlessly with the guitar parts, providing the traditional sonic foundation of bass when necessary and doing his own riffing when the time is right. The section in “Locust Bean Gum” at the :30 mark is a great example of Sutton having the perfect bass line for a section. We hear him introduce his bass riff solo before the guitar joins. It’s funky, angular, and sits really well underneath the guitar line when it enters. Andy, the fleet-limbed man with no last name, always has a great complimentary beat – either accenting the chaos of a guitar riff, providing some tasty polyrhythms while Allen just makes noise, or giving us a straight-forward beat that drives the music forward. This trio has such great chemistry with each other.

While the tracks have a tendency to sound like absolute chaos, it’s apparent that the individual parts and song structures as a whole are super detailed and deliberate. Lower Automation reports in interviews that they spend lots of time editing and rearranging their initial ideas, agonizing over every detail of an arrangement. I should think so! All of their tracks flow so well and nothing seems forced. I’m very impressed at how much music they fit into such short songs. None of the tracks on Lower Automation hit the 3 minute mark. And yet they all have a distinct sound and take you on a journey. 

Lower Automation has delivered a quirky yet aggressive record in their self-titled LP that should have the world of ‘core buzzing. Like many of my favorite records they’ve pulled together many different strains of the post-millenial metal/hardcore/punk sound world into a coherent if zany musical expression. You definitely need to give this record a spin when it drops on July 12 via Zegema Beach Records!

8/10

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