Progressive music and Death Metal have always been strange but undeniable bedfellows. From the very early days of Death’s career, Chuck Schuldiner would play with a technical precision akin to the most progressive bands around and this overt musicianship has continued through the genres’ long and storied histories, from Dream Theater to Tool to Black Peaks, and from Cannibal Corpse to Venom Prison. Musical dexterity is the cornerstone of the two genres, so when they collide you get something mind-bendingly complex.
Opening with a spidery, tub-thumping bass line, Emergence (self-released) commences in a deceptively progressive manner. It’s not to say that the music isn’t progressively minded for the duration of the album, but the intro has a distinctly John Myung feel to it, setting the tone to Dream Theater as opposed to any Death Metal luminaries. It is a savvy move on Basilysk’s part as the album as a whole leans more into Prog than Death Metal, but manages a careful balancing act of the two with professionalism and nous.
Second track, ‘Molester Of Dreams’, follows the spiralling intricacy of its predecessor with a punishing edge. The percussion keeps the pace at a steady and threatening roll while the instrumentation from the strings acts as a catalyst for the infernal machinations to unfold. We also have to talk about how bloody Metal the song titles are. Any fan of the ludicrous nature of cartoonish violence in Death Metal will find themselves grinning with glee at the likes of ‘Molester Of Dreams’ and ‘Sinners Of Their Own Reality’.
The band certainly has the chops to follow up the beauty of the song titles; the content lives up to the premise mightily. ‘Sinners Of Their Own Reality’ is a high speed, frenetic barrage of riffs and technical complexities with a superbly agonising vocal performance to boot. ‘Sad State Of The Arts’ opens with an ear-shattering blast beat and hellish roaring, which segue into a more grooving, rollicking riff storm. The syncopation between instrumentation and vocals is marvellous and makes for a promising live moment when the band tour this material.
The only real sticking point with the album is perhaps a danger of being overwritten. The musicality of the players is enviable, as are Josh Perrin’s vocals, but the album often fails to inspire more than just a carnal feeling. There isn’t any room for the music to rise into the transcendent, so it settles for technical execution. This is by no means a bad thing, and for many it will be a wonderful distillation.
Ultimately, Emergence is a more than satisfying album for fans of progressively minded music and has just enough brutality to appease a Death Metal contingent of the audience. It doesn’t always stray into extreme highs but the music is always more than adeptly performed. The quartet are immensely talented and show a real instrumental flair, whether or not this translates into brilliant song-writing will vary from listener to listener, but there is no denying the exhibition of excellence.
7 / 10