Automaton is an excellent psychedelic doom band with post-metal leanings from Athens, Greece. Even though they have been around for a while, their output has been sparse, having so far released a very strong debut record in Echoes of Mount Ida, followed by an even more impressive collaboration with Dr. Space. The latter EP showcased more vividly the further capabilities of Automaton’s sound, and the band’s potential. Their return now with Talos is the fulfillment of this promise, with Automaton presenting a devastating work that draws on the sludge and post-metal traditions to create a truly towering offering.
The record kicks off with a very strong post-rock sense, as the looser structures of “Trapped in Darkness” come into view. The heavier parts add to the track’s depth, with their added sludge-oid weight raising the track further, while at the same time subtler psychedelic motifs begin to unfold. This aspect is revisited in further moments of the record, with “Submerged Again” being a perfect example of this mesmerizing manifestation. Repetitive, clean melodies with a slight dissonant pitch shift meet with the stellar use of effects and feedback to construct a stunning background.
This post-metal quality also highlights the more ambient, verging on cinematic, tonality that Automaton introduce with Talos. Combining the subliminal post-metal repetition, the opening of “Giant of Steel” brings to life a very different side of the band, putting more weight on their ambient side rather than their heavier practices. It also sees them expanding their experimentalism towards a different dimension, stepping away from the psychedelic touches and into a more distinctly atmospheric motif.
Still, the backbone of this work remains the doom metal weight and its sludge manifestation for Automaton. The second half of “Trapped In Darkness” sees this vision come to fruition in the most perfect way, combining the post-metal grandeur with the heavy sludge motifs, bringing to mind some of the best moments that scene had to offer in the early ‘00s. The adventurous subtlety and wonder of post-metal meet with the gigantic sludge guitars to create these impressive soundscapes. Yet, Automaton travels further, touching the more extreme reaches of the drone dimension, as the final break of “Giant of Steel” suggests. Through a minimal progression, the long-form investigation of Automaton becomes an overwhelming procedure filled with disfigured vocals and heavy feedback.
Even though the band revels in their long-form applications, be it on the minimal side or with a more defined progression, it is the shorter tracks that inject the necessary energy to this work. “Automaton Marching” sees the band unleash such an instance of chaos and fury, relying on dissonance and a faster pace to deliver a terrifying blow. In a similar manner “The Punisher” comes forth, with its dissonant bends echoing through the corridors of Talos and the punishing drumming with its crisp progression turning the track into an imposing burst of energy.
Yet, the most impressive moment and the highlight of this work is the collaboration of Automaton with the Greek folk legend Psarantonis in the extraordinary “Talos Awakens”. Psarantonis comes from the rich Cretan musical tradition and is member of one of the most important musical families in Greece (he is the brother of famed Greek musican Nikos Xylouris and father of Giorgos Xylouris of Xylouris White), and his presence adds an incredible twist to Talos. His trademark vocal delivery provides the voice of Talos, the mythical giant automaton protecting Europa in Crete. Echoing through ages and accompanied by Automaton’s ritualistic rendition, Psarantonis unleashes also his lyra to provide a further layer of complexity and lift the track to further heights, while the guitar leads move towards a more standard rock formation. The result is nothing less than transcendental, marking the track one of the most interesting collaborations of 2018 and making Talos an excellent entry to the Automaton discography.