Encephalon – We Only Love You When You’re Dead (2017)
Cosmic prog rivetheads Encephalon return with album number three, We Only Love You When You’re Dead, released via those inimitable vinyl fetishists Artoffact Records. The Canadian act first came to prominence with their track Rise, from the self-released Drowner EP in 2009. Dependent Records subsequently featured the song on one of their label compilation albums and released the debut Encephalon record, The Transhuman Condition, back in 2011. It was a powerful album, very highly regarded, diverse and full of excellent cyberpunk aestheticised electro-industrial. Four years later, the band followed up that well received debut with the daring Psychogenesis. Even more diverse and progressive, Psychogenesis cemented the band as a serious player in the world of underground electronic music. That four-year wait seemed like an eternity for Encephalon fans, and surprisingly enough, We Only Love When You’re Dead has arrived nice and promptly after Psychogenesis.
There’s a certain level of expectation when it comes to Encephalon’s music. Given the quality of the first two albums, how would album number three follow suit? The band have a big sound, almost theatrical at times. Without hesitation, I can definitively say that there are incredible songs on this album, but there are also one or two that don’t quite hit mark.
Purportedly a concept album with a sci-fi/horror twist, whereby, according to frontman Matt Gifford, a dead artist is unwillingly resurrected via corporate funding with the goal of satisfying a future societies’ thirst for some form of glorified nostalgia. However, this cyber-Frankenstein rejects his new elevated role in society with a raging anger and his idolaters eventually turn against him as he turns out not be their idyllic hero. Perhaps there’s a justifiable dig at current society’s insipid and vacuous superficial nature in the storyline, I for one was eager to hear how this would turn out musically.
The album starts out really strongly with “Limb by Limb”, a classic Encephalon track that fuses melody and distortion harmoniously to create a darkly energetic anthem. Its fantastic. Similarly great is “The Calvin Klein Of Slime”, again featuring strong songwriting embedded into its electro-industrial core. The quality continues with “Never Bleed” and “Naraka”, the latter track sees Alis take on lead vocal duties, her deep, dark tone suiting the track perfectly. The title track finds the band striking a more atmospheric note right in the middle of the album, it’s almost like a reprieve from the prior industrial onslaught, its seemingly orchestral attack climaxing succinctly.
The subsequent two songs are where things seem to go a little wrong – both Lunacy and In Plague lack that distinct Encephalon soul and character, plus the drums are over-compressed and too loud in the mix. However, “A Debt Of Flesh”, apparently in a 21/8 time signature, sees Encephalon back in killer form, twisted vocals, brutal synths and savage beats delivering another anthem. “Limb from Limb (reprise)” doesn’t really add a whole lot to the album, it’s not bad, just kind of acts as a bit of breathing room. The album closes with the darkly aggressive “What Part Of Me Dies”, a solid, crunchy mid-tempo industrial groover with an epic synth line. Excellent.
We Only Love You When You’re Dead is a very good album, its shortfalls being minimal considering Encephalon’s consistent high standards. Recommended listening.
Available to buy on Bandcamp right here right now.