Since his debut album Drone Machines in 2010, Tristan Shone—better known as industrial-metal artist Author & Punisher—has been a bit of an anomaly. He's absolutely the only one-man metal machine architect in San Diego; see him live and you'll see just how elaborate his system of masks, keyboards, triggers, slides and other mechanisms truly is. I'm not aware of another artist on the planet who, simply from a logistical standpoint, is doing something similar to what Shone does.
Yet for as fascinating as Shone's technical aspect is, what's been more impressive to watch is his progression as a songwriter. His last album, 2013's Women and Children, saw him pushing his sound into more accessible territory, with a greater embrace of hooks and melodies. Yet that was just one stage in an ongoing evolution that has led to what sounds like his most complex album yet, Melk en Honing. Recorded with Phil Anselmo (Pantera, Down) in New Orleans, Melk en Honing finds Shone broadening his sound in every direction. It's more discordant, it's catchier, it's louder, it's more nuanced—it's a lot of different things at once, all of them fascinating and satisfying developments.
Prior to the release of the album, Author & Punisher released standout track "Callous and Hoof" as a stream, and it's representative of the album in that it pushes in almost every direction possible in a seven-minute span. It's slow and doomy in one part, it's melodic and atmospheric in another, and in between, it's intense and chaotic. There are some surprisingly meaty guitar riffs on "Future Man" (or what sound like guitar riffs—Shone doesn't usually use conventional instruments) as well as some soaring, if abrasive vocals. "Disparate" is a slow, pulsing highlight that recalls Nine Inch Nails at their best, and "Shame" has one of the most impressive codas of any track here, rising up into a dense and melodic gothic dirge.
There's a greater array of sounds throughout Melk en Honing, but by and large, Shone is still relying on the same setup he always has. Sure, he's developed updates to some of his machines, but it's not like there are string sections or gospel choirs on this album. There is, however, a lot of creativity on display, and it's because of this breaking down of boundaries that it's his best album yet.