TRACK-BY-TRACK: Artificial Language – The Observer
June 5th, 2017
California prog rockers Artificial Language have just released their ambitious debut record ‘The Observer’ that nods to peers such as Protest The Hero and Between The Buried And Me. Anthemic choruses and technical riffs make this one for the tech metal lovers but the concept story behind the record is enough to intrigue any music fans:
“The Observer is a narrator from the album that looks over various events. Throughout these events he peers into people’s lives through the first and third person. While observing the narrator becomes increasingly frustrated and confused by humanity and the emotions that drive their actions. As the album progresses he starts to understand humanity and understand the feelings and perspectives of the people he’s observing.”
Take a trip through the record with Artificial Language‘s track-by-track guide to their debut release.
01.) THE OBSERVER
I had just been brought on board as the keyboardist and really loved the concept for the album. I wanted to create a slightly dark and mysterious atmosphere for the intro and then fill it with a bunch of layers. I tried to make a slow build that would grow into the ¾ time change and eventually lead into the first song.
02.) THE GRAND SKEPTIC
This was originally going to be guitar vs piano and make a fun little video for it. I ended up just writing a lot of different parts and it sounded cool so we went with it. We really like the switch offs between each guitar and the piano.
03.) THESE AREN’T MIRAGES
One of the first songs that I wrote. I was trying to mess with different time signatures while making it still easy to follow. I usually only add the odd time signatures if I feel that the part needs it. Say it needs an extra note then I will add it, something that will compliment the music more than making it odd for the sake of it being odd.
The first story line involves the songs ‘The Grand Skeptic’, ‘These Aren’t Mirages’, and ‘The Silver Cord’. These songs involve a homeless man taking shelter in a tree and his interactions with a young girl he tricked into bringing him food. While the Observer is watching he thinks about how much humanity takes from each other.
04.) UNSELF PORTRAIT
‘Unself Portrait’ was actually originally named ‘Minimal’. The reason we gave it that name is because I (Charlie) was in my Music History class, and we were on the topic of minimalist music, a very simplified style of music with not a whole lot going on at once. It gave me the idea to write that main piano line that your hear at 0:32 seconds. It’s kind of eerie, but slightly poppy at the same time. I was planning to pretty much just drone that through the whole piece and build upon it. I ended up writing different parts to it. Once I added drums it became a whole new song and I decided to try and make a metal/rock song out of it. I still kept it pretty simple (compared to most the tracks on the album) and make more of rock song out of it with the build up to the chorus but give it a twist and add an epic ending with some heavy piano and strings. I knew it called for some awesome vocals which I’m very happy with what Shay ended up doing on that section. The ending has my favourite vocal melodies and lyrics on the whole album by far.
Lyrically, ‘Unself Portrait’ is about a painter who feels guilty for being a bad father to his daughter. With his art set as a priority over everything, he feels as though his neglect for her has affected the person she’s become. While trying to escape his worries through painting, he stares at a blank canvas and feels like it represents him more than a painting he would create. He looks back on his broken marriage and mistakes and feels that it is too late to correct any of them.
05.) THE SILVER CORD
I was trying to break away from the fast and shreddy sound we have had on a couple of songs. I wanted to try and make a more calm and emotional sounding song. This is what came to be. I started out with the piano chord progression and added things on to it. Then eventually added guitars. This is one of the songs that seemed to flow from the start for me.
‘Change’ was an instrumental song that I wrote during the winter of 2015. It was just a on-the- spot piece that was based off pure inspiration listening to different musicals for the first time. This one flowed pretty well for me.
07.) PLAYING THE RIVER
This song was my attempt at trying to write something out of the box from our usual sound. It is pretty up-beat while having weird/interesting sounding riffs with all the chromatics, it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what feeling it’s supposed to portray. By the time the chorus kicks in you know what we’re going for. The ending sliding arpeggios on the guitar was something that I’ve always wanted to do, and this was the perfect chance.
08.) DIRTY HANDS
This was the first song we wrote. Victor had the first 2 riffs written and I added his parts over that, and built upon it. We tried to give it a Latin feel.
09.) FORTUNE TELLER
‘Fortune Teller’ was actually supposed to be written for the next album. I had already started writing stuff for the next record and this was the first song that he came up with. Fortunately it was finished before we even finished tracking ‘The Observer’. So we decided to record it and throw it on the album.
Was originally named ‘Syncatto’ which was the name because it stood for syncopated-staccato. I wanted to try and write a bouncy break rhythm and have some cool keys playing behind it. That’s how the song started. I then added some riffs and leads and mixed it all together.
Lyrically, ‘Mazes’ continues the story of the daughter in ‘Unself Portrait’. Marrying into royalty, she becomes a queen to a king. Thinking she can run a kingdom better than her husband, she stabs him in order to take her position at his throne. The Observer sees this as a constant cycle of rulers taking over each other and never benefiting society. He is entertained by how humanity manages to over complicate everything; no matter how small the world is in comparison to the universe around them. The observer also believes people keep being fed this illusion of a perfect society. As long as they continue to be fed, they will not react to their fears of collapse.
11.) TURN OFF THE PICTURES
Explaining how this song came to be is actually pretty funny. Charlie was planning to write the “Final” song on the album. We already had 10 songs at this point, but we felt like it needed a solidified ending. He had the biggest writers block for a few days. Usually he can work through it and get something out, but this time he was just stuck. One day we were all hanging out and he just drank an insane amount of coffee and it literally came to him instantly.
He started off with the idea of a carnival which is why the original name of the song was ‘Carnival’. The whole point of this song was to tie up all the loose ends of the story and bring some melodies back for one last listen. Some parts may be a little different, and some might be on a completely different instrument. That song (instrumentally) was written in about two days and once Charlie showed the whole band it was pretty much everyone’s favourite right away. We were all very curious how the vocals would turn out on it, but Shay and Victor ended up writing vocals that fit exactly what everyone was looking for. Bringing in the concept, and it tied all the loose ends together.
The tracks ‘The Observer’ and ‘Turn Off the Pictures’ are tracks that are about the Observer himself. In the beginning of his observations he doesn’t understand what it means to be human. His new understanding of humanity bothers him greatly and leaves him confused and in shambles. To escape from his awareness, he separates himself further into nothingness in order to fight off his wanting of the human condition. This song also hints that he may have had previous connections to humanity.