Compact Disc (CD)
Since their inception in 2004, Vocaloids have functioned as autotune’s ultra-cute cousin. The artificial voice boxes of these anime avatars lie somewhere between T-Pain and an old Casio choir patch in terms of accuracy to human singing—they can hit perfect notes and vibrato, but they never feel quite right. Few albums probe the uncanny horror of Vocaloids as well as Project:00, the newly-reissued EP by Cryostasium (featuring popular vocaloid MEIKO).
It’s a concept ripe for parody—industrial-tinged black metal outfit teams up with artificial anime girl, hilarity ensues. But this isn’t some one-off goof project. Cryostasium, the brainchild of one Cody Maillet, had been pushing the ever-stiffening boundaries of metal for over 15 years by the time they released this in 2016. And unlike similarly-minded meme mashups, Maillet makes full and inventive use of everything Vocaloids are capable of, creating a uniquely suited timbre to the project.
The opener, “Inebriate,” shows the vitality of the concept in full force—creating dissonant choirs of artificial voice tones that sound almost natural, probing the realistic possibilities of Vocaloids for all their uncanny-valley potential. Meanwhile, songs like “Downward” and “Mutagen” push MEIKO’s voice to unreal ranges that sound more like a theremin than a voice, piercing through the staticky haze of blast-beats and distortion.
Combined with the impeccably gothic, minor-key songwriting, the cumulative effect is at once cathartic and deeply unsettling: the inconceivable sound of an algorithm screaming, or a window into the AI-driven apocalypse we’ve been warned about for ages.