Null Terminator, Zero Integration, 2021
Tracks: Electrotechnics (4:15), Intercorporeal Kinetics (6:23), Transeuphonic Gnosticonduction (8:29), Atmophysical Mobilogics (10:44), Invisible Panmechanicosophy (14:35), Integration (7:20)
In computer coding, a null terminator is a control character representing the value zero. It can also signify the end of a string of code. At least that’s what Wikipedia tells me. I’m an historian, not a computer programmer. Anyways, that California musician Luke Simpson chose to name his music project after this comes as no surprise when you look at his background. While he studied music in college, he ended up spending a decade as a software engineer, so it seems logical to blend the two into an instrumental album.
Despite the absence of lyrics, Zero Integration is a concept album, and a darn good one at that. Simpson describes the concept,
In the far future, the Catholic Church has developed over the centuries into a galactic government body. Null Terminator is an agent in their employ, flushing out evil wherever it hides in the darkest corners of the cosmos. The recording on this album is a personal reflection by Null Terminator on the process of perfecting himself for service in this eternal project.
The album is a healthy balance of keyboards and guitars, and it has an energy to it that reminds me of an 80s movie where the character is preparing for something while some sort of hype music plays. That isn’t to say the music sounds like it’s from the 80s, although I think Simpson may have been influenced by the synth sounds of the 1980s sort of like Haken with their album Affinity. The production here is definitely contemporary, and the guitars keep the keyboards from dominating. The music can range from that hype-me-up energy to a more foreboding sound, such as on “Invisible Panmechanicosophy.” Say that ten times fast.
Parts of “Transeuphonic Gnosticonduction” could be from a soundtrack to a scene from a sci-fi movie or tv show. It starts off with a rather mysterious ethereal sound before transforming into prog keyboard heaven with touches of early 70s Deep Purple and early Mannheim Steamroller thrown in. It all comes together with the guitar by the end.
There are moments that remind me of ELP and others that remind me of Dream Theater, especially Jordan Rudess-era DT. I think Simpson’s style of keyboard playing reminds me the most of Rudess, if I had to pick any particular player to compare him to. The guitars have a bit of a Petrucci flair as well, and the combo of keyboards, guitar, and bass shredding together definitely gives a Dream Theater vibe, even if it isn’t quite as heavy.
Luke Simpson shows off an incredible amount of talent on this album. The melodies and soundscapes are well-developed without being overworked. The songs tell a story without words. And the beautiful artwork – both the cover art and the other pieces inside the CD’s sleeve packaging – helps further tell that story. If you can make your way through the big words in the tracklisting, you’ll find Zero Integration has a lot to offer.
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Buy Zero Integration on BandCamp: https://lukesimpsonmusic.bandcamp.com/album/zero-integration