In case you were caught unawares, the “tech” in the tech death sub-genre of metal means technical. It’s an important distinction to make since death metal can be many things, not all of it deserves the lofty label. The earliest purveyors of the style might have been extreme, and well accomplished at playing their instruments, but not living up to the name. Later bands definitely upped the ante on what could be accomplished and now we are talking about an umbrella of bands that could mean Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus, Death, Beyond Creation, Gorguts, Neuraxis, Obscura, Cryptopsy, and many more. Hailing from the small island nation of Malta, comes Abysmal Torment, who want you to know in no uncertain terms they can carry the weight. Their new album The Misanthrope (Willowtip) is a brutal exploration of the style in every track.Continue reading
Ghost Cult’s dive beneath the crust into the dirty, disgusting and sub-underground is back, as Richie HR returns with a round-up most fetid for your vulgar delectation…Continue reading
Spearheading the events were practiced local (body) openers, Scalpel, who are honestly one of the few forever-local-band-syndrome Death Metal bands that I can enjoy seeing repeatedly. They’ve done the honours of opening ceremonies for Aborted, Morbid Angel, and Gorguts, just to name the recent ones that stick out. It’s nasty, brutal, primitive, and hairy, technically proficient when appropriate, and inciting brainless pit violence the next. By “brainless pit violence”, I kinda mean a few guys tossed each other around and bumped shoulders like so many rams, but clearly the music is working the way it should. For fans of Brutal Death Metal, as you may have guessed.
California’s Exmortus (not to be confused with Tampa old school death metal) embraces antiquity without shunning modernity. With influences equal parts scorching NWOBHM licks, Black Thrash barbarity, and classical sensibility to taste. A welcome contrast to Scalpel, awash in gore, Exmortus’ rousing, anthemic approach is the meeting ground between Holy Grail -represented by the bassist’s choice of shirt- and that bygone Baroque swagger of early Children of Bodom, sans keyboards, plus signature ESP models. Melodic, but not too much so, there were hints of power metal scattered throughout, but never in danger of erupting into an inflatable swordfight.
As much as I wish I could sing praise to Allegaeon for their brand of admittedly decent Melodic Tech-Death, I found this Colorado crew to be ultimately uninspired. Though vocalist Ezra does have an animated stage presence and the band is certainly competent, I’ve heard so many similar acts that I can scarcely feel as impressed as others seem to be. I think of Sylosis, who play a very similar style; Scar Symmetry, who have, in my mind, captured a distinctive take on the Melo-Death sound; and Dark Tranquillity, whom we may ‘blame’ for this strain of Gothenburg mysticism. Their breakdowns seem obligatory rather than energetic, and the solos, while thankfully, not long-winded, don’t seem constructed to the best of their ability. If this is their best, then it’s just not my cup of tea. Or maybe it’s a cup of tea I’ve had too many times.
Technical Death Metal poets laureate in Virginia’s Arsis have once again given us a sermon in the obscure day to day sorrows of humanity. Their title pays homage to a poetry term running counter to thesis; it is the unaccented beat in a work of verse, and/or the unaccented part of a measure. Indeed, Arsis’ particular style meshes the ‘Elegant and Perverse’, a mournful take on death metal that incorporates both the twisted brutality and the flowing melody it is capable of, with equal portent.
Conducting the proceedings with a symphonic grandeur was of utmost importance, this year marking the 10th anniversary of the band’s landmark album, A Celebration of Guilt (Willowtip), an album whose corrupting influence has blackened many a heart with its majestic hooks, its malicious, sharp-edged sheen respected by both Technical and Melodic camps; opening, as expected, with out favourite love song, ‘The Face of My Innocence’, to exposing the folly of falsity in ‘The Sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letters’, and the chronicles of bestial nightmare itself through the venomously sweet ‘Wholly Night’. It was like a walk-through of essential Arsis, with ‘We Are The Nightmare’ and the abbreviated, but no less brilliant, version of ‘A Diamond For Disease’ making much appreciated appearances. Breaking the pattern of ‘Maddening Disdain’ (I tried), we were treated to an amusing cover of ‘Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)’ by W.A.S.P., which James Malone says they learned mainly to get laid. I suppose the fact that they play it now means either it works, or it has yet to. I’ll stick to their originals, myself, and would have preferred to hear ‘The Cold Resistance’ in its place, but a rare talent like Arsis deserves to succumb to their baser instincts between composing some of the more brilliant Death Metal this side of Keats. The video for ‘Forced To Rock’ will be all the evidence I need, I’m sure.
When it comes to death metal, there are three options. You can play it straight and tread the mainstream festival stages like Hypocrisy, you can go back to the primitive and rot under the floorboards like Autopsy, or in the case of Florida natives Gigan you can blast off into a cold interstellar vortex at warp speed and leave much of the competition charred to ashes in your wake, as the they do on third album Multi-Dimensional Fractal Sorcery & Super Science (Willowtip).
Their name, taken from Kaiju, the Japanese giant monster best known for battling Godzilla is appropriate, for Gigan sound ready to take on just about anyone with their blistering tech-death assault on the senses. Armed with more ideas than their rivals in the blasting stakes and an appreciation for mood and atmosphere that is often lacking when speed takes precedent, this is a record that should gain the band many admirers. The scope of their vision is demonstrated in the opening track ‘Beneath the Sea of Tranquillity’, a nine minute endurance test of fire-bomb riffing, scattergun percussion and furious vocal bellows that call to mind Ulcerate wrestling with Ufomammut in the midst of an exploding star.
The remaining tracks are shorter in length but equal in intensity, such as the punishing attack of ‘Influence through Ritualistic Perception’ and the whirlwind chaos of ‘Mother of Toads’, the latter of which features plenty of innovative drumming alongside the more standard blasts and fills. Comparisons to the likes of Origin are inevitable but Gigan have enough of their own identity to pull in those who couldn’t get enough of the latest Gorguts record; those who like their death metal to be uncertain and dangerous, the way it should be. They’ve certainly achieved that here.
Three years on from rampantly evil second album From Our Cold Dead Hands, Sweden’s Infanticide continue their grindcore odyssey with the even more uncompromising third album, Misconception Of Hope (Willowtip). Continue reading