In contrast to the majority of his synthwave / chiptune-era peers, MASTER BOOT RECORD is very much in the business of making metal records. To be more specific, the Italian deals exclusively in “100% synthesized, 100% dehumanized,” symphonic electro-metal insanity, and “Personal Computer” — his second full-length for METAL BLADE — is more of the bewildering same, but frequently bigger, bolder and more ruthlessly clinical in its destructive execution.
Were it not for the sheer depth of imagination and breadth of musical vocabulary that MBR employs here, the conceit that this is music made by rebellious machines would be all but perfect. With song titles reduced down to numbered codes, this is an album that offers no direct route to an emotional core, but opener “8086” detonates with such untrammelled ferocity and bombast that the spiritual and aesthetic links to so-called real metal are more than obvious. Perhaps what listeners need to do is to think like a robot, and the sterile but multi-faceted cudgellings of “80286” and “80486DX” will suck them straight into the MBR universe, with or without the requisite bionic neck muscles.
“Personal Computer” hits a peak of efficacy on “80386”: spiralling, sequenced synths collide with a propulsive, punky attack, a swaggering, downtempo mid-section and a final sprint that suddenly transforms the mood from gear-grinding aggro to bright-eyed euphoria. MASTER BOOT RECORD has been ploughing this same furrow for years now, but each successive release has showcased a further refinement of his vision. Both “80386” and the epic “80486SX” allude to a more pointedly cinematic approach; the latter’s web of overpowering pomp, parping digi-horns and wild, kaleidoscopic synth trills scream out to be the soundtrack for some dystopian celluloid nightmare. Meanwhile, the closing “80686” glides in on waves of electric harpsichord, before steadily evolving into a dazzling, electronic facsimile of widescreen and windswept post-rock, replete with swooping, sentimental melodic hooks and a colossally overblown, cyber-showbiz ending. In contrast, “80486” is a straightforward and strident synthwave banger, albeit approximately ten times heavier than the nearest equivalent.
Creative, crushing and thrillingly over-the-top, “Personal Computer” is such a riot that you may find yourself wondering exactly what humanity is for at this point.