Monday, October 1, 2012

Talking Philosophy and Death Wave with Sybreed!




Country of origin:
Geneva, Geneva
Active since:

Industrial/Groove Metal (Death Wave)
Lyrical themes:
Abstract, Negativity, Pain, Nihilism
Current label:
Listenable Records


Ben: Vocals
See also: ex-Rain, Deathcode Society, ex-Pavillon Rouge, ex-Fragment (Che)

Drop: Guitars, Programming (2003-present)
See also: ex-Rain

Kevin Choiral: Drums (2006-present)
See also: Insomny, ex-Further Dimension, ex-Inner Visions, ex-Just Us
Ales Bass (2011-present)

The Interview

1. First of all, gentlemen; thank you for yet another amazing album. Of course, I have some questions and these relate to the concept of existentialism and transhumanism. First of all, what does the concept of existentialism mean to the band, in it's lyrics?

Ben: well, to summarize, let's say it's a strong belief in the capability for a human being to stand on its own, without the need of a system of belief or ideology, and a clear emphasis on the idea of freewill and responsibility, which is somehow pretty important for us as persons in the band, even if I suppose my bandmates don't always put words on that behaviour of ours. To a greater extend, existentialism as an edge over other schools of thought for giving to an individual a way to have a better insight of how he functions as well as a wide sense of possibility and despite a pessimistic mindset, a capacity of hope for a better future. So how is that important in Sybreed's lyrics? Well, simply because existentialism which supposed people with willpower yet compassion and empathy, a certain taste for beauty and some common sense is exactly what the societies we live in are opposed to: the postmodern world is a pandemonium of power plays for economic dominance, in which populations themselves are considered as mere resources, an obsession of control and security which lead to the temptation of totalitarianism, in hard of soft forms. Sybreed is our way to stand against this, to give an "essence" to our "existence".

2. I'm afraid I do not know much about transhumanism, and though I've been a fan of your music since 2009 when I first came across The Pulse Of Awakening, I never knew that your lyrical themes dealt with the concept. I have always thought of the human essence, a "soul" if you will, as energy - in particular; "electrical energy" since I have heard about spirits being able to make contact through electronic means. If this is true, then perhaps we could in-fact "live on" in a sense through the means of an electronic landscape, perhaps a world of digital construction; though I fear that someone or some event might "pull the plug" and end the transhumanist evolution altogether. It is awfully morbid, but I joked around and said that the same energy that makes up the human essence might also be the energy that powers up my music device, or my microwave for instance, or even my laptop. Am I completely off from the nature of what transhumanism is, and what does this concept mean both in your lyrics and in the band?

Ben: well, I am going to summarize because that's a complex question. Science says we might be able to radically transform our biological nature soon: the point is, in my opinion, not to ask "what will make us more fit to survive?" because after all humankind is the less natural and adapted species ever, but to say "ok, survival is totally 20 000 BC, what I care about is being free to think and create and enjoy life. How can I do that better, longer and more efficiently?" See, it's an aesthetic approach; it is about understanding that what matters is our culture, because that's what makes us "humans", and not our biology which is contingent. What counts is what we think we are as individuals and our capability to use our freewill. So, in a near future we might be able to choose the very form we want to give to the vessel of our "soul", in the way we will personally see fit: It is just an extension of our individual freedom, maybe a more radical way to express our essence, but not so different of having nowadays a tattoo or whatsoever. Of course, I don't think everybody will become a machine, or will be modified genetically and so on, but that technology will give us different possibilities and degrees of application. Let's say we might enter the area of "customized" humanity. There are social and "metaphysical" risks of course ? however, the bigger dangers I see aren't linked to technology itself but to the persons who are ironically the most opposed to it, the ones who enjoy exercising power over other men, which will be specifically the people that might try to "pull the plug" as you say, under the guise of political, economical, religious or ethnical reasons: they fear freedom and individuality and the subsequent lost of control, they fear knowledge because it is what turn masses  into individuals, as well as they can't stand the idea of change. In any case it will surely end with a revolution and it might force humankind to revaluate itself, which is at the end what Sybreed stands for. Transhumanism is just a technological orientated way to promote individual freedom and fight totalitarianism, and if I now tend to avoid techno-babble when writing, I clearly speak of those implications throughout all my lyrics.

3. When The Pulse Of Awakening Awakening came out, I noticed a lot of terms relating to the horror of modern society. But one of the tracks that I have been curious about for ages (and should have been a single) is that album's "Lucifer Effect." I have listened to this particular track probably close to 60 times, and while I think it's one of the best tracks you've ever recorded, I am still at a loss as to what the lyrics mean. Could you expound upon this concept?

Ben: to make it short, the Lucifer effect is a concept created by the psychologist Philip George Zimbardo to describes the moment when an ordinary person crosses the boundary between good and evil to engage in a malevolent action, which often happen when peer pressure become sufficiently powerful to overwhelm morality, compassion, or sense of justice. It is the process that turns a normal human being in a full-fledged sadist under specific conditions. It sometimes happens just because of an imitations process or a sense of impunity, the more extreme example being those members of the Nazi party who participated to the Shoah and who declared during the Nuremberg trial "I had orders". In other words, it's the common, mundane "evil" which exists inside every one of us, and that it must be kept in check. By extension and in the context of the song is thus about that constant battle between the moral side and the amoral side of one's psyche.

4. Now that you've made an incredibly bold statement with the new album, "God Is An Automaton" which is something I feel is intriguing, as I've always felt that what man refers to as God, is really nothing more than a well-oiled machine, just as man himself is such a machine built of different parts and organs that must all work together, or else he would perish. What does this concept, "God Is An Automaton" mean to the band? What message are you trying to put forth with this idea?

Ben: there's actually two meaning to our new album's title: first, it is about the relation human beings have to the notion of "divinity". It is neither a theological statement or a criticism against the notion of faith, but a commentary on the psychological impact of traditional systems of beliefs, especially monotheistic religions, who tend to encourage irresponsibility, so as to say the fact that people become quite inclined to use the excuse of a higher being as a justification to their nature, and thus deeds, in matters that are usually mundane and humans. By extension, this is also a stand against the cynics who use and abuse of organized religion and individual faith as a political tool, a mean to seize power: history gives us tons of examples about religions turned political systems. To sumarise, the automaton-god is an idol and an imitation, an artefact use by some for personal advantages or for external exculpation. Then, there's also the idea of the God-automaton: the semantic difference is important here. What I mean is that if I would define God and give it a form, I'd say it is the machine and the operator at the same time, as well as the designer of the whole structure we call universe. However, it would take too long to explain it extensively for we would have to delve into theology, theories on cybernetic and artificial intelligence as well as a Turing works, astrophysics and so on.

5. Apparently, people either really love or really despise your music; something I don't understand. I've always felt that the clean vocals were some of the best I've ever heard, and that your "death wave" style of music always mixed perfectly (especially on the new album). Most people really don't know how much work it takes to not only write new songs, but to program the electronics as well. If you could, explain to me the process of creating this album. What was the most difficult part of that process?

Drop : For this album we've written the whole songs as a real band, I mean all together in the studio recording ideas and stuff. It took approximately 3 months, we've seen each other once a week, everyone was coming with some ideas, even our recently arrived bass player Ales, which has composed some of the riffs of the new album.

As soon as the ideas were recorded, I kinda digested the whole thing making it a song. Then I started working on the electronic side of things. It's the first time in this album that most of the songs are written starting with a guitar riff of drums pattern, except "Challenger" which is the most electronic song of the album.

Then I went to Los Angeles with Rhys Fulber working on last arrangements and keyboards, I've almost left this part blank in order for him to be free while working on it. Amazing experience.

6. Now I'd like to inquire about the band's name. Who inspired it? What does it mean to the band?

Ben: regarding it's inspiration it's a word we agreed on Drop and I, after having lengthy looked about on original band's name. However, we though it would be a good thing to have a specific spelling, differing from the real one, which is "Cybrid". In any case we choose that name according to its futurist aspect, and also because it has a biological feel, opposed to the mechanical feel usually linked to all the cyberpunk culture. Considering that we might favor the human aspect above all, it was some sensible choice.

7. I see you men as being undoubtedly fans of electronic music. But what is your opinion of the dub-step genre? Do you think it's a "step back" in terms of electronic music, or a necessary evil?

Drop : I've always liked huge basses in electronic music, it started with Drum & Bass some years ago then I discover dustup almost 5-years ago, with bands like Culprate. Recently came artists like Skrillex, which I really like, even if a lot of people consider it as a shame for music, I think it's not. It's the future of music, I feel a lot of metal grooves on it, with these deep bases doing polyrythmic patterns. I think it's a necessary evil, like in the Middle-Age, the "devil tone" was forbidden, you were burnt if you were playing these tones, for some people nowadays dustep is a sort of "devil tone", something forbidden, on my side I think it's the first steps of a new era.

8. I noticed that the music on this disc is much heavier than your last album, and much more influenced by djent. What kind of bands inspired your sound during the band's inception, and what bands influence your sound these days?

Drop : I personally don't like djent when it's nothing but a pale copy of Meshuggah. Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, you know what I mean. I think a lot of these "djent" bands are trying doing the exact same thing that the Swedish gods (a.k.a. Meshuggah). On my side, this band influenced me a lot, but I try to emulate it into something more fresh, without trying sounding exactly like the influence.

Our sound is influenced mainly by mainstream and underground metal scene, as well as electronic and new wave sounds. If you want few band names I would say Meshuggah, Fear Factory, In Flames, Soilwork, Katatonia, Front Line Assembly, Depeche Mode, …

9. Are there any non-metal groups that you think we should know about? Any electronic groups that have blown you away, perhaps?

Drop : Oh yeah for sure, as I told you in the above lines we are deeply influenced by the electronic scene. For the dustep side, projects like Culprate, Skrillex, Noisia among others have a great "rock" feeling to their compositions. I am also a huge fan of Pendulum, they mixed so well electronic music and rock, I really enjoyed their albums, they got something really fresh. I also really like Front Line Assembly, Delerium and Conjure One, which are Rhys Fulber projects, and this guy influences me since I am a little child. I can't speak of non-metal bands whiteout mentioning the obvious Depeche Mode, which might be one of my favorite bands of all times. Speaking of them, I really dug Dave Gahan's side project called Soulsavers, their new album is a masterpiece.

10. I really liked the cover of Killing Joke's "Love Like Blood" from your last album. Are there any new covers that you've recorded for a special edition of the disc to come later upon release?

Drop : Thanks! For now we don't have any new covers in the works, but we never know what the future is made of, so I think we will record another cover one day, but I currently don't have a clue of which band it will be.

11. Is a concert DVD to come in the near future?

Drop : A concert DVD is something really expensive to produce. We have to film 2 or 3 gigs in a row, record it properly, making overdubs cause no one wants to hear mistakes (yeah we are humans) on a live DVD, and moreover all the promotional things you need to do to release a live DVD, cause I personally don't know a lot of people buying these kind of things nowadays. Maybe someday we will work on it, but for now it's not even a project.

12. What kind of films, books, computer/video games would you guys recommend, past and present?

Ben: regarding movies it will be pretty easy for it'd say Blade Runner first and foremost. Then, I have a taste for 80's and 90's SF movies, since nowadays many seems to favor style over substance: it's still pretty cool to see a movie like Robocop for example, which is a big satyr hidden under the guise of an action movie. Regarding books, the Dune cycle from F. Herbert which is my favorite SF work, A Clockwork Orange from Anthony Burgess, anything from P.K. Dick, Nietzsche, W. Gibson, and Machiavelli. Well it's hard to make a precise recommendation for I buy books by the kilograms. When it comes to games, it won't be pretty original for I have few times for this usually, yet I recently definitely enjoyed the Mass Effect series, Deus Ex H.R. and now greatly awaiting Watch Dogs which should be pretty much full of cyberpunk awesomeness.

13. What do you guys do when you're not making music, or touring?

Drop : I have a studio, I am a record producer, I play in two bands officially and a dozen of others in the studio as the "man in the dark".
I love traveling. I travel a lot for the music, tours, promo, etc… but I love going somewhere to know different people, see other cultures, that's one of the best thing ever.

14. People talk of a solar flare storm that could occur, with the capability to knock out the entire planet's electricity for an unknown period of time. What would you do in the event that this sort of thing happened?

Ben: good question. First, I actually think it would have that much impact: some stuff might get "fried" but I guess every country have a plan to deal with possible issuing chaos that might happen, with all the martial law and emergency state being already planned if necessary. In the case of a major disruption anyway, I suppose one should avoid urbanized areas for a while, because that's where riots and civil unrest might spread the most. However, I don't see myself hiding by the country side, since such event would be a fantastic opportunity to reorganize society as way we see fit.

15. What is your outlook on the future of human civilization? What do you feel we must do in order to survive or perhaps, evolve?

Ben: well, my view on the future of our civilization might be as gloomy as some my think. It is true that humankind as a whole is going through a chaotic era and the matter with such phase where different tendencies confront each other is that usually there's a lot of subsequent bloodshed. I quite believe that the XXIst century will be a very difficult time for all of us. Yet these are transitional times: the matter is that our civilization is still trying to cling to value that aren't adapted to the pace of technological change as well as it's impact on environment and society: the result is that despite the fact we have the capability to produce enough goods for almost all living human beings, we are still plagued with economical wars, inequality in the repartition of wealth between geographic areas as well as inside the countries themselves, overconsumption of resources et caetera : those problems are linked to old patterns and despite all the progress we made, we still have a "feudal" way of behaving as societies, with however global results and exponential effects. Just look at the environmental issue nowadays:  consuming resources as if it was 1400 AC with the actual worldwide population is definitely dangerous. So here are some things I believe being important if we want to evolve: adapt to the technological development and promote a strong, motivating culture to inspire people and not the current rubbish we are washed (such as the glorification of money as a standard of achievement for example), learn to allocate resources wisely and self-manage ourselves in way we create more than we destroy as a civilization. It sounds easy, however there's a huge drawback: despite democracy and economic liberalism we are still governed by men that are both utterly conservative and borderline sociopaths with a real disdain for the people they rule. I suppose we will have to start thinking about a better way to select the persons we give the legal power and establishing checks on every level to prevent abuses, because the ones we currently have are somewhat of a joke. In other words, by keeping some power hungry people far from actual power, the transition might be already easier and definitely less brutal. Then, where we will we go precisely from there? I couldn't really say, for the situation is far too volatile. In any case, we will go through interesting times in the coming decades: let's just hope we will neither end up under the authority of some sort of security obsessed, vaguely theocratic yet over-capitalistic governments, nor nuke ourselves back to the dark ages.

16. Finally, if you had to choose one catastrophic event to change the world, any sort of apocalypse you could ever dream up - no matter how ridiculous - what would that event be?

Drop : My world is cool like that, even if I think the music business is becoming more and more a pain in the ass to deal with, so many bands, so many ways to get the music for free, all this combined means bad sales and who said bad sales says no tours, etc…
Anyway, to answer your question, I would really like seeing an extra-terrestrial mankind visit earth, even if I think they already came more than once, just to see how many minutes the human race can stand in front of them, assuming they came to destruct and reconstruct. I know this is not a good end, but it should be more fun than an giant earthquake or some asteroids crashing down on the ground.

Thank you for your answers gentlemen, and yet another amazing album. I've always felt that you gentlemen are above and beyond talented, and I hope that you finally get the media recognition that you deserve.

The Review


Sybreed - God Is An Automaton (PR2012) - I don't believe any introductions to these Swiss electronic metal masters are required, because their music speaks for itself. And on this fourth release from the band, Sybreed sounds bolder, stronger and more melodic than ever.

Yes, that addition of more melody might kill some listeners already, but it is a sense of evolution from the deathier stuff that they've played in the past. Of course, there will always be Antares for those who like this band as it's very heaviest; but I personally prefer the album right after it - The Pulse Of Awakening, because it mixed the extreme metal with the melodies just perfectly.

But I will be brutally honest about this record, because it is my mission as a reviewer to tell nothing more than the truth. While the band does hit hard with such songs like "The Line Of Least Resistance 4:32", "Posthuman Manifesto 4:50" and "Challenger 4:37" for example, (despite the fact that I disliked the Challenger EP, the track stands out well on the album) but there are some songs on this one that just don't do much for me. "Hightech Versus Lowlife 5:15" and "Downfall Inc. 5:01" are decent tracks, but they just seem like a little bit of filler to me.

I will say that the band is definitely trying more experimentation on this album, and they are also using more electronics. You'll definitely hear all sorts of effects throughout the disc, and some work miracles but others just don't seem to be that effective. We've also got to take in the nature of the frontman's clean vocals, because they are used much more frequently on this disc. There really isn't a track on this disc without clean, and perhaps that might be too much of a sacrifice for you to make. I completely understand, but I do feel that Benjamin's got some of the best clean vocals I've heard in metal since the days of Opeth. They come off sounding like an abused angel, with a sort of tarnished peace in them. This comes off extremely well on the disc's standout track, the amazing "God Is An Automaton 5:59."

The disc is still very heavy though, with a lot of djent and some definite death metal growls, screams and plenty of fury. You'll just have to deal with more of the clean than you'd like, and you might be reminded of mid-era Soilwork. The drums do blast pretty hard, especially on "Red Nova Ignition 5:08" but I feel that the song was almost killed when the clean overpowered the latter half. It's like you get this pulsing bout of fury, and then everything just sort of mellows out. I'm not even crazy about the chorus here, "Ignition, phase one?" Perhaps I should read the lyrics.

However, fans of the bands more epic and bombastic work will really enjoy the namesake track, as it's really the best one on the entire disc. It reminds me a great deal of "Next Day Will Never Come" from the band's debut, Slave Design. But unlike that song, this one has a great deal more experimentation. I really wish that more of the songs on this disc could have had quite as many different layers as this one, with some absolutely great guitar melodies, one of the best vocal performances that Ben's ever given, and some amazing atmospherics. "God Is An Automaton 5:59" proves to me that this band is still capable of great things, and this song is one of those tracks that stands out alone as one of the best songs of the year, overall.

If you're reading this, guys; you might want to make a video for that one. It's really the band at their very best.

But focusing on the rest of the disc, we've got the wonderfully bleak, but melodic "A Radiant Daybreak 5:30" and the even darker, "Into The Blackest Light 4:28" which will probably appeal more to those who were actually looking for some fury from the disc. But I think that some fans are going to be upset that there aren't enough heavy ones on this disc. Again, it's plenty heavy - but there's not a lot of brutality here.

I also need to make note of the disc's closer, "Destruction And Bliss 9:44" which does utilize the entire 9:44 well enough. Ben tries some odd vocal ideas here, but the clean works well and the screams come right where they should. This is also the only song to feature a legitimate guitar solo, and it's done well. After that, the song goes into atmospheres and they end out the album. But the atmospheres are done well enough, I'd assume.

Before I make this review any longer, I will just state that the overall listen of this material gives me the feeling that the band might have run away with djent. Yes, it's a very popular genre in the metal scene right now, but that doesn't mean that almost every song had to feature the Meshuggic riffs. On this album, Sybreed sound mostly like a lighter, more atmospheric Meshuggah.

I also need to mention that Rhys Fulber (who also mixed Fear Factory, Paradise Lost, and Conjure One) mixed this disc rather well, and the cavalcade of sounds on this album are all heard audibly, thanks to him. I can't even guess how much work it took to mix all of this right, and I'm not even going to guess how many different tracks had to be mixed for each of these songs. But the production is exponentially high, and it's something that shows the band breaking out of the underground and maybe sticking a toe into the waters of mainstream metal.

Again, there are hits and misses on the disc and it doesn't quite live up to the standards I set after listening to The Pulse Of Awakening; but in all fairness I didn't really like Antares much either. I just felt that there was more variation of the riffs on the band's last album, and here I get much of the same. This isn't a sign that "the mighty have fallen" for me, because there are some great tracks here. But I won't be giving this band the great score that I wanted to.

Again, not a total wash. There are some wonderful things on this disc, and I still recommend that you check it out. But don't expect to be bashed over the head with death metal chugs, because there really aren't much of those here. If you like clean vocals and melody though, you'll certainly get them here.

Highlights: Posthuman Manifesto, The Line Of Least Resistance, God Is An Automaton, Challenger, A Radiant Daybreak, Into The Blackest Light, Destruction And Bliss (11 Tracks, 59:00)


1 comment:

  1. Great interview! A lot to take in but thoroughly thought through.