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Skynet's making some music... and it actually sounds good - 80%

Gas_Snake, March 8th, 2020

It seems that I have all the luck in finding weird stuff on Bandcamp, and among it is the artist behind this album. Master Boot Record claims to be "a 486DX-33MHz-64MB processing avant-garde chiptune, synthesized heavy metal & classical symphonic music". Said music aims to please both the metalhead and the computer geek in the listener. I never thought metal could be successfully mixed with demoscene of all things, but this "machine" has been doing exactly that for the better part of 3 years now. The aesthetic won me over, and I gave a closer look to each of its releases. My experience was a rather bittersweet one...

As much as I wanted to really like this thing, its earlier work left me unsatisfied for a lot of reasons. The first half of MBR's catalogue was more or less interchangeable and also had a really grating rhythm guitar tone that greatly diminished the worth of the riffs. After that came a bunch of rather dubious ideas, including a double album that was too samey for a full front-to-back listen, and another batch of material with synthesized vocals of all things (sorry, but that's far too weird even for me). Simply put, there wasn't a single record of this project that I genuinely loved from front to back...

Until now, that is. On "Internet Protocol", no such flaws are present. The production is excellent, the songs are all distinct and memorable, and the music no longer drones for most of the album's duration. The trademarks of the MBR sound are all there: every instrument is entirely synthesized, the musical style often switches between industrial/neoclassical metal and cybernetic ambience, and, of course, there are the DOS references. As this artist claims to be an actual computer running DOS (really, what else would you run on a 486DX processor?), it has to uphold its image by putting little nods to old technology in everything: not just the music, but also the album art and track titles. Sadly, the musical ideas displayed here do not have much to do with what the tracks are named after (in this album's case, net protocols, if you couldn't tell by the name). They're just a collection of similar songs with a unifying style and aesthetic, and such has been the case with their previous releases as well. That's not a crucial factor through, because the music's great as always.

As for specific songs, opener "FTP" is one of my favorite tracks by this "computer", mixing their usual aesthetic with some surgical thrashing mayhem. Juicy melodic breaks and rough tech-thrash rhythms transition into each other seamlessly, while catchy, foreboding melodies keep the listener in anticipating every developing idea that comes later in the track. "IRC" is more of an atmospheric ambient track, while most of the other tracks go for a more epic sound as is common in actual classical music. However, this does not mean mindless wankery - and besides, there's no point to it when every single note on this release is programmed. These tracks sound like genuine classical pieces that went through a dehumanization filter and found a place on here.

As I alluded to in the first paragraph, this is quite similar to a creation of the demoscene - or rather, the musical side of the demoscene. That's because it actually does fit that definition - art made with nothing but a computer for the purpose of showing off your skills. This music even sounds like something from a typical demoscene audio-visual presentation, or the kind of tune that hacker groups would frequently insert into their software. Another parallel could be made to video game soundtracks, as just about every track here could certainly fit that purpose. I'm not sure what kind of game it would fit best, though. Maybe a hacking simulator such as Uplink or Hacknet?

In any case, this is a great album even on its own merits, and the best thing they've released thus far. If you want a taste of this sort of music and don't know where to start, then start with this. I also highly recommend this as background music for any sort of IT-related activities: programming, hacking, setting up a server - anything, really. Master Boot Record certainly knows how it's done.