Posts Tagged ‘Technical Death Metal’

Review by Sandre the Giant

Canadian tech death maestros Atrae Bilis have brought their spiralling complexities on their new album, ‘Divinihility’, out in August through Transcending Obscurity. Expect a bewildering cocktail of brutal and technical death metal.

After the jagged complexities of instrumental opener ‘Gnode’ giving you a rough idea of where this album is going, the soul squeezing brutality of ‘Sulphur Curtain’ comes barrelling into you, replete with a powerhouse drumming performance that somehow keeps up with the intricate riff patterns and tempo changes. The dissonant guitar work in the superlative ‘Phantom Veins Trumpet’ creates more variety in three minutes than many bands manage in an album. There’s clearly a lot of Gorguts influence here, along with some Ulcerate and perhaps some more brutal options like Dying Fetus or Depravity. Not enough bands these days are referencing Gorguts for my liking, so I’m on board with this.

The TO label sampler including ‘Ectopian’ on their playlist and I can see why. There’s an infectious chug to it that burrows into your mind like a parasitic worm, laying eggs that burst into breakdowns and surprisingly memorable passages. Normally overly technical death metal can just become an exercise in overkill, but Atrae Bilis handle it well. I mean, there is the oppressively dense ‘Upon the Shoulders of Havayoth’ but hey, if you can play like that why wouldn’t you show off every so often?

‘A Ceremony of Sectioning’ brings us to a juddering, cavernous close and ‘Divinihility’ is over too soon. Asides from being too short though, the music here is tremendous; varied and highly skillfull while remaining tight enough in the songwriting department to ensure that you’ll remember a couple of the tracks for a long time. Hopefully on their next release we can get a lot more!

Chaos Motion - Psychological Spasms Cacophony

The twisting carnage of French death metal scientists Chaos Motion’s newest record ‘Psychological Spasms Cacophony’ must, frankly, be written by some kind of laboratory born mutant. That is the only way to explain how the genre is pulled in the strangest of directions by this band. It is out now through Transcending Obscurity.

The jerky, spasming ‘Intro’ will immediately let you know that something is afoot here. ‘The Sound of Specter’ ramps up the Gorguts and Atheist influences, but with a lot of added weirdness. This is an album that truly lives up to its title, with random jerking riffing interspersing the almost mathcore rage that infests ‘Perturbation of a Spin’. I’ve never heard anything that resembles this before, and throughout the forty minute runtime that feeling becomes more and more apparent. Just when you think you’re going to have a bit of a headbang it stops on a dime, spins and careers off in another direction.

The brain melting ‘Vital Vision Void’ sits astride the middle of this record, and its maddening structure is possibly the ideal summation of everything this record brings. There are times when I’m not even sure it still counts as death metal; where the abstraction of sound takes precedence over what we would think of as ‘typical’ death metal. ‘Inner Chaos’ is a great example of this. Don’t get me wrong though, when the heavy comes it is dense and devastating and a respite almost from the aural tyranny wrought upon us.

‘Psychological Spasms Cacophony’ is the logical conclusion of Psyopus, Meshuggah and Gorguts all fighting on a space station orbiting a black hole. An album that is not catchy, has no specifically memorable riffs or melodies but is yet utterly mesmerising. A staggering achievement, Chaos Motion have created something terrifyingly addictive with this; a genuinely unique sound.

Crs - The Collector of Truths

The return of Mexican death metallers Cirrosis after a twenty year silence, now styled as CRS, is hopefully a welcome one. A lot of bands that have been radio silence for decades are returning to the limelight in this current boom period for extremity and hopefully ‘The Collector of Truths’ is an album that will allow CRS to stay there, not just vanish again. It is out now through Concreto Records.

Immediately there are strong Fear Factory and Meshuggah influences apparent in the stop start, blastbeat powered opener ‘Asfixia’. It is nice to see particularly Fear Factory referenced in modern death metal, considering how superb their early output was. There is a fair amount of technical work going on here and some pretty sweet soloing as well, such as in the frantic ‘Kill My Name’. There’s a lot of Atheist in here too; some of the twisting melodies are awesome and ‘The Art of Breathing’ has a totally out of the blue mid section that I quite like. Some of the songs are a little paint-by-numbers, like ‘Resistencia’, but overall the band have got a good sound and aren’t afraid to slip in a few softer moments.

‘The Collector of Truths’ is a pretty solid return with a lot of nice ideas and some killer songs. It doesn’t grab me as much as some of the other death metal releases this year, but a bit more time with it might change my mind. An intriguing mix of melody and brutality, with some genuinely unexpected touches makes this a record you should at least hear once.

Vale of Pnath - Accursed

Technical death shredders Vale of Pnath are releasing their new EP, ‘Accursed’, through the iconic Willowtip Records, and even though it is an EP it still manages to cram 27 minutes of serious mind melting music into it. It is due to come out in May.

Like the valley of Lovecraftian horror they are named for, Vale of Pnath’s intro, ‘Shadow and Agony’ is suitably dark and horrifying. It leads directly into the maelstorm of ‘The Darkest Gate’, which couples the maddening technical death metal for which the band are known, with an undeniably miasmic black metal atmosphere. There is so much collaboration between black and death metal now that it is sometimes difficult to see where each genre splits, but Vale of Pnath manage to keep their riffing deathly and their atmospherics blackened. There’s moments in ‘Skin Turned Soil’ that bring to mind ‘Deathcult’-era Dimmu, while ‘Audient Void’ sounds like an echo chamber for the vale of Pnath itself.

The cascading death metal riffing of ‘Obsidian Realm’, that begins to drown in the blackened waters is a perfect example of why ‘Accursed’ is a record that is a joy to write about. The overall atmosphere is menacing, horrendous filth that seethes with untold terror, while the musicianship is equally jaw dropping. Vale of Pnath’s work is carved from molten rock, and burnished into an alien hue, both unknown and mesmerising.


Greek technical death metallers Cerebrum count George Kolias as a former member, so you know they must have done something right. Their new record, ‘Iridium’, is full of nods to legends of the technical death genre but with lashings of old school flavour and great songwriting. It is out 21st December through Transcending Obscurity.

The chugging, bending riffs of ‘Time Reversal’ open this record with some tasty, early 90s Floridian death metal goodness. The tone is scratchy and rough, but the death metal is surprisingly complex for such an old school sound. You’re getting stuff like early Atheist, where flashes of bass led progression hints at more beneath the ravaging thrust of the old school. ‘A Face Unknown’ also has a lot of that kind of early Cynic riffing, and you can feel that ‘Iridium’ is becoming something special very early. That style of progressive death from the early 90s isn’t always as much of an inspiration as it should be, and Cerebrum pay a special homage to it during the likes of the spiralling soloing of closer ‘Escape to Bliss’.

That serpentine flow of complexity through an old fashioned lens makes ‘Iridium; stand out against both old school death metal and tech death records this year, by using elements of both superbly and yet never overdoing either. Cerebrum are brutal, complex and yet weirdly melodic, creating memorable songs that also contort expectations and minds. Take ‘Absorbed in Greed’ as the best example of an album that doesn’t disappoint at any turn.


Gutted Souls - The Illusion of Freedom

Brazilian technical/brutal death metallers Gutted Souls have released their debut full length, ‘The Illusion of Freedom’, the follow up to 2012’s devastating ‘Unconscious Automaton’ EP. It came out last year, but I’ve just got my hands on a copy and man, is it a whirlwind of tech death brutality like you’ve never seen!

Opener ‘Being Human’ is dense as fuck, rampaging through some sickeningly heavy riffing but not shirking from some nice melodic work too. Gutted Souls have got a cool, Vader vibe in places, like the chugging ‘Snakes in Suits’ or the snarling, slavering ‘The Undying Stars’. Powering through a tight, technically impressive and guttural yet crisp collection of songs, Gutted Souls are full of good songwriting and rumbling intensity. There’s no sections that feel set up to impress guitar nerds, but the riffs are serpentine and everchanging in order to capture that perfect moment of destruction. ‘Psychopathic Ruler’ has one of the coolest solos in death metal today, and winding it round an absolute beast of a track helps it to stand out.

‘The Illusion of Freedom’ is a tight, solid and perfectly executed slab of brutal death that avoids the slam-and-squeal approach of many of their contemporaries in order to concentrate on a sense of weight and heft, despite being capable of fretboard fireworks at times. Gutted Souls are a band that deserve your time if you’re a fan of Vader, Cannibal Corpse or basically good death metal!

Dominant - The Summoning

The debut EP of Norwegian death metal squad Dominant (somehow the ONLY band with that name on Encyclopedia Metallum) is a severe beating in aural form. ‘The Summoning’ is a five track EP of technical death metal brilliance, and it has been brought to us by Lacerated Enemy Records. Released at the start of the year, it has been worth scouring back through my emails to find this beauty.

This is a prime example of what death metal needs in 2018; technical riffing without relying overly on guitar wankery, brutality without boring riffing and a vocal performance that could scour concrete from the streets. The gruesome riffing is superb, and the power straining to be unleashed from the chugging ‘Servants of Damnation’ is palpable. The brutality of ‘Vultures of the Void’ is a thing of beauty, bringing to mind the classic title track to Suffocation’s ‘Blood Oath’ and as for the bone rattling ferocity of ‘Feast of Woe’, well you just need to turn it on and turn it up.

Dominant look to be a new force in death metal, bursting through the rotted soil of the underground into the harsh, burning light of day. Hopefully this is only an appetiser for the main course, and I shall look forward to their next material being released.

Serocs - And When the Sky Was Opened

Mexican tech death squadron Serocs will unleash their newest maelstrom of devastation, ‘And When the Sky Was Opened’, through Comatose Records at the end of November, and what a staggeringly sublime piece of aural violence it is.

The swirling vortex of death metal that is opener ‘And So It Begins’ is a stunning way to kick off a record. It sets you up for one of the most neck snapping thirty six minutes of 2015. It is followed by ‘Solitude’, which has one of the finer death metal solos you’ll hear this year. The metal is fierce, rabid but also wonderfully produced. Each raging note and savage growl is crystal clear, allowing the intensity to shine through. Serocs have set themselves up to blow away any tech death album you’ll hear this year.

‘When the Ground Swallows Us…’ is something extra special though. An epic death metal odyssey that twists and turns between almost prog like territories and steamrolling Bolt Thrower worship, it is a vast stamp of individuality that looms over the rest of the band’s crushing assault. The title track has a similarly epic scale, with a bulldozer crush matched with dissonant rumblings. Each song brings the band’s songwriting credentials under scrutiny, and they pass every time. It’s difficult to create this kind of awe-inspiring tech death without running the risk of disappearing under guitar wankery.

Whether being left breathless and broken by ragers like ‘Itami’, or pummelled inexorably towards oblivion by the crushing death of ‘Them’, ‘And When the Sky Was Opened’ is highly recommened to rip your face off and shred the remains. A stunning cyclonic assault of wrath, riffs and brutality. My new favourite band do it harder than you.

Chaos Plague come recommended to me by my good friend Teo from Chiral, and are a progressive technical death metal band from Italy. This five piece have just unfurled their debut release for Revalve Records, ‘Existence Through Annihilation’ and its one hour of some serious riffs.

After the obligatory orchestral intro (damn these Italians and their taste for the finer things), ‘Coil’ lurches from the starting blocks with some serious bass lines and technical wizardry. The main reference points here are clearly 90s death metal, particularly Pestilence and Atheist. It’s very progressive, lacking anything of what you would refer to as a groove, but you are left dizzied by the quality of playing.

Chaos Plague throw every progressive death metal trick into the mix here, and it’d make Chuck Schuldinger proud that bands are carrying on the legacy he perfected in Death and particularly Control Denied. ‘Collision of Entities’ is one of the more mind boggling tracks you’ll hear all year, yet is brought back to a semblance of this reality with a wonderfully fluid solo.

Mixing clean and harsh vocals also adds to the flavour of Chaos Plague. This isn’t your tone deaf clean singing that infects a lot of modern metal. This is dashes of clarity to enhance moments like the almost robotic ‘Transcendental Liberation’. But it is the pure musicianship here that excites me. Progressive death metal has rarely sounded as brave and experimental in the past few years, in fact probably since Atheist released ‘Jupiter’ in 2010. My only criticism is that some of the songs seem a bit overly long. You almost feel that there’s a bit of streamlining that could have been done, but of course, that may affect the sprawling majesty of the whole release.

‘Existence Through Annihilation’ exists as the voice of the cosmos. Some bands play music that sounds like the screams of dying stars or howls from the cold, dark void. Chaos Plague play the music of nebulas forming, or the eerie spin of planets. Otherworldly, enthralling and comfortably the most impressive record, musically, I’ve heard all year.

I know, I know, wrong Indians… BUT! The Indian subcontinent is producing some of the best new sounds and bands in underground metal. Only with the rise of Demonic Resurrection in the past few years, first with their staggering ‘The Return to Darkness’ record, and their latest ‘The Demon King’ has there been a really well known Indian metal band. Hopefully that will now change with some more bands finding exposure. So I decided to focus on India for this installment, and go a-scouring for the best metal that it has to offer.

First of all, I’m plugging Crypted. A progressive death metal band from Chennai, they play a brutal, propulsive style of death, punctuated with the odd jazzy break and some virtuoso guitar work. If what I’ve heard from ‘Flesh Eater‘ is anything to go by, they could be pretty big. It’s catchy as hell while losing nothing of its brutality and heaviness. Check them out.

Another great Indian band are Toxoid. Now, my friend Steve at Sixsixsix Music was the one who suggested these guys. They play a rather vicious style of black metal, paying homage to the cold white north. For a band from such a tropical area of the world, ‘Aurora Satanae‘ is an icy cold, Satanic blast of metal that could be straight from Scandinavia. It’s bloody marvellous. Download it on their Bandcamp for a paltry $4.

I’m going to mention Demonic Resurrection here, as even though they aren’t really an underground band anymore being featured in magazines across the world, it is important to acknowledge that they’ve come out representing their country with serious chops and tunes behind them. If it wasn’t for ‘The Return to Darkness’, I would never have considered India as such a fertile breeding ground for the new breed of extremity. So hail to them and simply put, buy the shit out of their stuff, because it’s devastating blackened death metal. If the rest of their new record sounds like this, it’s going to be challenging in many album of the year lists.

Back to the underground now, but possibly not to stay there considering the quality of last year’s ‘The Dawn of Consummation and Emergence’, Reptilian Death bring the heavy and the death metal with similar qualiy and ferocity as Demonic Resurrection, and it’s only a matter of time I feel until we’re mentioning them alongside their more famous countrymen as the newest hopes for death metal. Listen here.

Penultimately we come to Mumbai’s Bhayanak Maut, a band who mix elements of death metal and hardcore, but yet aren’t metalcore nor deathcore. I suppose they could just be metal eh? Your nearest comparison is someone like Lamb of God or Devildriver I guess, although they don’t quite match up with the quality in those bands. They have a couple of good songs on YouTube, and I’d definitely be interested in hearing more. Solid heavy metal for the pit.

Last, but in no way least is Inner Sanctum, death/thrashers from Bangalore. A band who have opened for both Slayer and Metallica in the past, it implies an impressive pedigree and talented guys, and Inner Sanctum do not disappointed. Their thrash is chunky, similar to Megadeth when they’re on form. It’s well paced, not hyper speed and it possesses some cracking riffs. Listen here.

This is only a brief look at some of the 145 bands listed on Encyclopedia Metallum that play metal in India. I picked the favourites of the ones I could find to listen to. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them too.