Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Album Review: Cyborg Octopus - "Learning to Breathe"
Okay, when you name your band Cyborg Octopus, that’s an easy way to get attention, especially among a crowd that’s looking for something that stands out amidst the masses. Let’s face it, if we here at this site are being honest, the mere name of the band is probably fifty percent of the reason we’re here talking about them in the first place. The other fifty percent has to do with the band’s ambitious press, which roughly calls the outfit a progressive thrash-funk sextet. The combination of those words feels all but impossible, but hey, this is 2016 and let’s all keep an open mind. With that, the band has recently released their new record “Learning to Breathe.”
But that happy boasting about the band and their capacity for creation ultimately becomes a drawback, because while Cyborg Octopus is a decent band, and their new record isn’t a terrible listen, the immediate issue if that they’re not the band they want you to believe they are. Too often the sides of their personality give way to each other rather than mix, creating an album that possesses different faces, but not the ones advertised. Even within the opening track “Data_M1nefield,” there are really catchy thrash parts and a nicely juxtaposed old school rock harmonic solo, but the only funk within is momentary and separate from the material around it.
Now, that particular drawback can be overcome if the content contained within is good enough to stand on its own merits, in its own image. Does “Learn to Breathe” measure up? There are great moments on this record, “DiscoBrain!” for one, when Cyborg Octopus manages to truly take hold of one of their parts and turn it into something that moves the body appreciably. “DiscoBrain!” is really the only track that gives us a full flavor of what the press wanted us to believe was possible for this album.
Other than that, the best moments seem to happen when the band embraces the thrash half of their personality, injecting their record with real groove reminiscent of the halcyon days of thrash riffing. “Shark Pit,” minus some connecting tissue that doesn’t necessarily fit, is a really nice thrash song in the traditional sense, with an intelligible but fast-paced riff, the classic snare gallop and some open space to the make the riff breathe.
Too often Cyborg Octopus gets caught up in trying to reach beyond the margins, which is admirable, but only if it fits. There are multiple sections of either piano or feigned (real?) harpsichord and while those are somewhat interesting for their placement, the rhythm beneath tends to immediately devolve into a handful of simple chugs.
So, what we end up with is a record that isn’t a disappointment, but also doesn’t live up to the hype. In their best moments, Cyborg Octopus can be a very good, catchy metal band, but there aren’t quite enough of these to offer unilateral commendation of “Learning to Breathe.”