Texas's Steel Hook Prostheses have returned, but this new album is a bit different. Whereas the band's previous record The Empirics Guild (2013) created the kind of horrifying atmosphere that you might find in a horror film, or perhaps playing in the background of a Halloween spookhouse, Calm Morbidity is different. I won't say that there isn't still some semblance of horror here, but just not all the time. I believe the title really does work to describe the album here, in which pieces that are very ethereal coincide with pieces that are extremely frightening. This combination works rather well, as the creepier pieces (forgive the pun here) seem to creep up on the listener without warning. But then you could be listening to a track like “Sulphur Drip” which begin with a rather horrific vibe, as it flows into something a bit more electronic and spark-laden. Sometimes it even sounds like an electronic ritual, or a ritual composed by robots. If androids come onto the scene next year, as both Daily Mail and Inverse are reporting; and if their AI becomes advanced enough to form religion (God forbid, I don't really want to hear about Robo-Jesus) then this piece could literally be the sound of their worship. I just don't want to be sacrificed to the robot gods.
Then we have a cut like “Paresthesia” where ominous soundscapes are the literal name of the game. Harsh vocals might appear in it's follow-up, “The Medicus” but this piece alone makes me think of the spine-tingling atmosphere that one might face while walking through the abandoned hospital in Silent Hill. “Deep In The Marrow” seems to continue that robot religion, but it also feels possibly a bit more human this time around. For a band that seemed so sterile in terms of presentation, (there was nothing ritualistic or even somewhat spiritual about the band's last release) it feels like they may have gotten their hands on some acid and tripped out while making this album. That is not unheard of, by the way – I could only imagine these kinds of hallucinogenic substances taking the mind to extremely removed realms of consciousness, by which ideas that they would have never considered would come into place. Several of the greatest musicians, writers and even tech-giants of silicon valley have experienced slight bits of acid exposure in their lives (the techies actually call it micro-dosing) which I think might be responsible for some of technology's greatest achievements. These atmospheres certainly seem to feel as though they were inspired in the same manner. However you want to call it though, Steel Hook Prostheses have created a record that certainly feels like a logical step after their previous release and a more mature recording overall. As much as I enjoyed the horror atmosphere of the previous, Calm Morbidity gives me something a little more. Change is good.
(10 Tracks, 57:00)