The intimate link in a chain of man influencing machine influencing man, The Austerity Program have positioned themselves as the adage’s ghost. From the beginning of Black Madonna, the guitar and bass duo of Justin Foley and Thad Calabrese, respectively, are directly at the will of their drum machine. But they’re not playing the demo. They programmed it.
It is captivating listening to Black Madonna for not that reason solely, but it’s a big one. So mechanical is the duo, that you’d think the whole record was programmed and the pair simply hit “Play,” but that’s certainly not the case.
Yet, as the album progresses, the lockstep rhythms and riffs start to feel strangely organic. In the more reflective moments, the drum machine sounds like the work of a real drummer, despite its flawlessness. It feels almost human.
It’s not solely the Program’s cybernetic techniques and trickery that stands out. This is some strong songwriting, with additive rhythm tendencies that sometimes feel like a punky Meshuggah, but other times invoking comparisons to more grindy Hydra Head fare, other times epic, if dirty. They’re not an entirely instrumental bunch either, with some select vocals over tracks like the extended Red Sparowes-meets-Melvins “Song 17B” and the I- esque “Song 18.”
Regardless of method, Black Madonna has a level of intricacy that is normally the likes of bands already revered in the annals of music geekdom. If Black Madonna doesn’t get them a page in that unwritten tome, heads should start to roll.