After the critical acclaim of their fifth studio album Achromata, which was seven years in the making, Russian post/prog outfit Aesthesys found themselves on a creative spell again, taking only two years to come up with its successor. Alignments continues right where the band left off, with lead single “Exodus” opening the album with the same sparkling guitars and soaring violins that made Achromata into such an incredible journey. However, instead of composing their songs around a single story, as their previous album did, Aesthesys have chosen to compose ten songs that explore ten separate future scenario’s, creating another dazzling journey for listeners to revel in.
Being co-produced and mixed by Rocky O’Reilly (who worked with And So I Watch You From Afar among others) and mastered by Ian Sheperd (who worked on records by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Deep Purple and King Crimson), Aesthesys are sounding better than ever, taking their perfect cross-over between prog and post-rock a step further by infusing it with elements of math rock and space metal. Despite the lack of lyrics so typical of the genre, Alignments has no trouble sucking the listener into its dystopian landscapes, aptly employing rhythm and melody to create subtle depictions of the subject matter at hand.
After the aforementioned album opener, “Black Swans”, starts out with a staccato violin mimicking the steady ticking of a clockwork, while shifting guitar lines subsequently soar both ascending and descending, heralding the coming of an age where humans can simultaneously perceive alternate courses of the future. The metallic space rock riffs of “The Transcendants” form a fitting soundtrack for an exciting manhunt, while the heavy synth tones at the climax of “Hello World” perfectly portray a system collapsing into chaos.
“The future is weird,” Aesthesys declare with the release of their sixth studio album—a statement which seems almost inappropriate given its strange grammar. The future will be, but in using the present tense of the verb to be, it almost seems like it’s a statement about the concept of future itself—as if the idea of a “time yet to come” seems inappropriate given the state of things as they are in the current here and now. Regardless of whether this reflection was intended or not, it casts some doubt about the relevance of a science fiction-themed record in a time where life for many people has been about going back to the basics rather than technological advancement.
“For many the future seems closer to ‘a boot stamping on a human face forever’ rather than a fertile ground for an AI takeover. However (…) these songs are about more than mere technological developments that could take place in the future.”
In a world where social justice and environmental protection are on the back-burner, and where a majority of the population find themselves stuck at home, the ideas of DNA-enhancement and AI-philosophy seem more abstract than ever. For many the future seems closer to ‘a boot stamping on a human face forever’ rather than a fertile ground for an AI takeover. However, digging deeper into the subject matter presented in the accompanying (PDF) booklet leads to the realisation that these songs are about more than mere future developments and this is what makes Alignments such an enlightening listen.
“Replicant Party” talks about the idea of human clones being produced in order to take care of manual labour, but which, upon gaining self-consciousness, start to struggle for equal rights. ‘Android lives matter,’ reads the accompanying booklet, transforming the song into a painful analogy of the continuing struggle of people of colour to gain equal rights; a subject that is more relevant than ever these days.
Meanwhile, “Transcendants” deals with a group of scientists who make an important discovery in gene enhancement, subsequently ending up genetically enhancing themselves in order to stay out of the hands of the government which wants to use this technology for military purposes. The delicate issue of whether scientists should be loyal to their country, the international community or to their own conscience, has been relevant in the creation of the A-bomb in 1945, but also in the creation of a global SARS CoV-19 vaccine, which has been abandoned by the US in favour of its own scientific programs aimed at creating a vaccine primarily for the American market.
Throughout recent history, the great writers of science fiction have sought to use their stories as a means to explore social issues. By adding a deeper level of meaning to their narrative, Aesthesys have not only created a compelling soundtrack for the future, but they have also aligned themselves with the literary greats of the sci-fi genre. In spite of looking toward the future, Alignments remains culturally relevant to our contemporary world, making it a true revelation for fans of instrumental rock and metal across the board.
This album is… **interesting.
Alignments was released independently on May 28, 2020. The album is available in digital formats through various distros and platforms as listed on the band’s website.