Technical Death Metal

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Technical/progressive (or tech/prog) death metal is considered a legitimate genre by some (or even two legitimate genres), while others argue that it is a pseudo-genre. Bands included in this genre take emphasize technicality in their music, in the form of complex riffs and/or complex song structures, while others apply the ethos of progressive music more broadly without straying from their basic death metal sound. Death, Cynic and Atheist are considered central bands in the establishment of tech/prog death metal. Some bands, like Necrophagist, Obscura, and Braindrill, emphasize technique in their style and are considered technical death metal acts, while others, such as Opeth, Neuraxis, Sectu, and Nocturnus are considered primarily progressive death metal. Sometimes, jazz death metal is listed as a separate subgenre and comprises artists who incorporate elements from fusion jazz into their death metal style, such as Atheist, Cynic and Pestilence on “Spheres”. Given that brutal death metal bands tend to emphasize technique and compositional complexity, many brutal death metal bands, such as Suffocation and Hate Eternal, are also categorized as technical death metal bands. Some tech/prog death metal bands are so progressive on some releases that these are considered progressive metal rather than death metal, as is the case of some Atheist, Opeth and Cynic releases, that they are filed under progressive metal in the MMA rather than under death metal.

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technical death metal top albums

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DEATH Symbolic Album Cover Symbolic
DEATH
4.39 | 155 ratings
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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
DEATH
4.40 | 116 ratings
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
GORGUTS
4.43 | 23 ratings
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DEATH Individual Thought Patterns Album Cover Individual Thought Patterns
DEATH
4.29 | 104 ratings
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BEYOND CREATION The Aura Album Cover The Aura
BEYOND CREATION
4.42 | 16 ratings
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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.28 | 63 ratings
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CRYPTOPSY None So Vile Album Cover None So Vile
CRYPTOPSY
4.32 | 29 ratings
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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
NILE
4.40 | 13 ratings
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OBSCURA Omnivium Album Cover Omnivium
OBSCURA
4.23 | 34 ratings
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AUGURY Illusive Golden Age Album Cover Illusive Golden Age
AUGURY
4.45 | 8 ratings
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DEATH Human Album Cover Human
DEATH
4.17 | 107 ratings
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NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest Album Cover Those Whom the Gods Detest
NILE
4.22 | 30 ratings
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technical death metal Music Reviews

ULCERATE Stare into Death and Be Still

Album · 2020 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Having formed as far back as 2002 in the northern New Zealand city of Auckland, the technical metal wizardry of ULCERATE has become an extreme metal lover’s paradise of thick caustic guitar riffing dissonance that dishes out some of the most hellish and demanding tech death meets sludge metal that rode the wave of the surreal tech death craze that included bands like Gorguts, Portal, Mitochondrion and Pyrrhon. Add to that the jangly blood-curdling guitar sweeps found in progressive black metal acts like Deathspell Omega and you could be guaranteed to scratch that tech death morbidity itch with any of ULCERATE’s output which began with 2007’s “Of Fracture And Failure.”

Following the band’s last album “Shrines of Paralysis” which saw the light in 2016 comes the aptly titled (for 2020) album STARE INTO DEATH AND BE STILL and considering the album was released in April of 2020, it’s unlikely the album prognosticated the tumultuous chain of events haunting this calendar year with the most noticeable headache being the Covid-19 global pandemic. Like many such tech death acts that strive to unleash the most fiery caustic acrobatics of complexity and detachment possible, ULCERATE has found a new lease on life by crafting a less suffocating album that walks a tightrope between the heavy bombastic dissonance and downtuned dread of the previous offerings and adds a bit more atmospheric prowess in the form of melodic counterpoints and production clarity.

STARE INTO DEATH AND BE STILL in many ways is business as usual with that brutal atmospheric tech death scourge of midtempo sludginess with percussive laziness alternating with mind-numbing drumming wizardry but something seems more focused on this sixth album by ULCERATE, a band that i have never quite wrapped my head around despite owning the majority of their discography and giving proper attention for the clicking process. Something about this band has always turned me off whether it be the cadences of the dirge-like plodding of the martial rhythms, the depressive chunky riffs or the brutal bombast of the metal pummeling the senses with dissonant bleakness after a nuclear bomb drops. STARE INTO DEATH AND BE STILL is the album for me that final appeals to my tech death sensibilities and it seems the extra attention to the atmospheric counterpoints of the wind-swept guitar sweeps and fine-tuned compositional constructs are just what the doctor ordered. I can relate to this one unlike the ones prior.

One of my major hurdles regarding the appreciation of ULCERATE’s tech death has clearly been the vocal style of Paul Kelland. For no clear reason his growly vocal style has rubbed me the wrong way like an infested sore filled with hatching maggots An irritating and enervating factor which while unexplainable still provided the wrong “frequency” of death metal vocal bliss for my ears to appreciate but that too has changed on this one.. Something shifted on STARE INTO DEATH AND BE STILL where all the elements of ULCERATE’s prior musical style have aligned like a rare syzygy of astrological bonanzas that offer a bright future as shown in the cards. The clouds have lifted and although a bleak depressive sky still exists beyond the veil, its’ the kind of turbid orotundity that fires on all pistons thus showing how the tiniest of details in a band can be enough to make you a hardcore fan or a diehard deserter. For all my efforts ULCERATE has been the latter until this release reversed that course.

Hovering around the same hour’s playing time as the band’s previous efforts (save the debut), STARE INTO DEATH AND BE STILL finds the band maturing in a way that allows the sum of the parts to see a much bigger picture and how one musical methodology was tweaked to allow a much clearer synergy of the cast of caustic characters behind the wheel. At long last, despite my best efforts i can now say i’m in the ULCERATE club with this new album that so very much encapsulates the zeitgeist of the contemporary madness the world collectively experiences in this most surreal of calendar years. ULCERATE trods on like a sober observer of death and destruction delivered through the seasoned musical sounds of the guitar, bass and drums. In a world where this style of murky, atonal tech metal seems to be overplayed, somehow ULCERATE has surprised me and crafted an album that takes the band into higher levels of competence. Nice!

LYKATHEA AFLAME Elvenefris

Album · 2000 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Elvenefris" is the debut full-length studio album by Czech Republic, Prague based death metal act Lykathea Aflame. The album was released through Obscene Productions in October 2000. Lykathea Aflame was formed in 1999 by three former members of Appalling Spawn and drummer Tomáš Corn (who replaced Gabriel "Gábin" Pavlík). Appalling Spawn were active from 1995 to 1999 and released the "Bestial, Mystical & Spiritual (The First Spawn)" demo in 1996 and the "Freedom, Hope & Fury (The Second Spawn)" full-length studio album in 1998 before morphing into Lykathea Aflame.

The material on the 11 track, 72:12 minutes long album is a combination of technically well played brutal death metal parts and epic atmospheric parts. The vocals are predominantly ultra brutal unintelligible growls, but there are spoken word passages on some tracks too. The musicianship is generally through the roof, and especially drummer Tomáš Corn plays on a jaw-dropping technical level (which often reminds me of Flo Mounier from Cryptopsy). Keyboards are used for effect, but other than that this is guitar, bass, drums, and vocal dominated death metal. There´s the occasional use of acoustic guitars, and middle eastern scales, which only adds to the variation of the album, but those effects aren´t used that often. "Elvenefris" features a powerful, and detailed sound production, so in that department it´s a quality release too.

"Elvenefris" is overall a quality release and a quite interesting one too. There´s a slight issue with the tracks sounding a bit too much the same, and the keyboard dominated 11:14 minutes long closing track "Walking In The Garden Of Ma'at" being a bit of a tedious ambient listen, which could easily have been cut to a playing time of a few minutes and made a nice outro to the album, but instead drags and drags until the listener feels ready to go to sleep. So upon conclusion it´s not a perfect release by any means, but take each track out of context (except "Walking In The Garden Of Ma'at"), and it´s hard not to be impressed by the epic sound, the brutality, the technical playing, and the relatively original sound of the album. So despite a few isues a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is still deserved.

OF HATRED SPAWN Of Hatred Spawn

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
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voila_la_scorie
Of Hatred Spawn is a tech death band formed in 2017 by brothers Remy Tartaglia (guitars, previously from Unbidden) and JJ Tartaglia (drums, from Skull Fist). Their self-titled album is their only release and came out in December of 2018. The band is heavily influenced by classic death metal but also includes many aspects of modern extreme metal: low-tuned guitars, blast beats, odd time signatures, and brutal growled and raw, shredded vocals. The band has released three promotional videos for their album.

While it’s pretty typical for a modern death metal album, there’s no denying the ferocity of the assault of the band’s music. It’s pretty thick with heaviness and alternates between blasting rhythms and slower, ponderously heavy riffs. The alternation between the deep, guttural vocals and the shredded vocals, and their frequent combination for a kind of brutal death harmony vocal effect keep the vocals of interest.

Honestly, I find it difficult to search for more descriptive words or a deeper analysis of this album. But some points I appreciate is that even though the music is sometimes technical, it won’t knot your brain. Even though it sounds like yet another brutal death metal album, I find each of the tracks slake my thirst for really heavy, aggressive metal. Though they don't offer anything different (like saxophones for example), Of Hatred Spawn manage to hit all the buttons.

The sound is really good, too! Not overly squeaky clean but not two-dimensional and dull or muddy. Very simply a great feel-good death metal assault. And when I say feel good, it’s through a black eye, swollen cheek, fat lip, blood on the teeth, broken jaw kind of feel good. With an album like this, it’s tough to pick a favourite track, but I’ll recommend watching the video for “Nest of Vipers” and crank the music.

The one curious thing is track 7, “Overture” which is an instrumental composed on keyboards - synthesizer piano, synth vocal chorus. Most bands would have started the album with this and the track seems to cut off at the end. As I’m listening to the Bandcamp download, I have to wonder if this is not track 1 on the CD, which has not arrived yet.

Curiosities aside, this is a very excellent serving of death metal!

NILE In Their Darkened Shrines

Album · 2002 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"In Their Darkened Shrines" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US death metal act Nile. The album was released through Relapse Records in September 2002. Since the release of "Black Seeds of Vengeance (2000)", drummer Tony Laureano (Angelcorpse, Aurora Borealis, Malevolent Creation, Eulogy...) has joined the lineup. Former drummer Pete Hammoura was forced to leave Nile as a result of an injury he sustained while touring in support of the debut album. He played on one track on "Black Seeds of Vengeance (2000)" but other than that the drums were played by session drummer Derek Roddy (Malevolent Creation, Hate Eternal, Council of the Fallen, Serpents Rise...). Tony Laureano would leave Nile again in 2004, but he was considered a permanent member of the lineup in the years he spend with the band. Chief Spires (bass, vocals) left Nile only a few months after the release of "Black Seeds of Vengeance (2000)", but he is not replaced here. Instead Karl Sanders (guitars, vocals) and Dallas Toler Wade (guitars, vocals) handle the bass on "In Their Darkened Shrines".

Stylistically the material on "In Their Darkened Shrines" is a further development of the brutal technical death metal with ancient Egypt lyrical themes also found on "Black Seeds of Vengeance (2000)". The predecessor featured a dark and slighly murky sounding production, and therefore "In Their Darkened Shrines" sounds quite different from that album, although the musical style hasn´t changed dramatically. But with a clearer, yet still brutal and raw sounding production, "In Their Darkened Shrines" is a more detailed release with a more dynamic sound. Nile have always been an incredibly well playing band and their music features a stunning number of compositional details, and for the first time all the glories are produced in a suiting manner, which brings out the best in the material.

It may still sound quite chaotic upon initial listen, but given a few spins it becomes apparent that there is a means to the chaos, and that everything is tightly structured and played with great technical finesse. The tracks are also cleverly composed and great care has been taken to deliver every note with the right conviction and passion. Although many of the tracks are played at breakneck speeds and feature high levels of aggression and brutality, there are heavier more atmospheric parts featured on the album too. A track like the very impressive 11:43 minutes long "Unas Slayer of the Gods" even display a progressive side of Nile. Nile also occasionally use keyboards to enhance the epic atmospheres, and it´s a very effective addition to the core instrumentation of guitars, bass, and drums. The lead vocal duties are shared between Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler Wade, and the vocals alternate between deep unintelligible growling vocals and slightly more intelligible aggressive growling (still delivered in a relatively deep register).

The material on the 12 track, 58:43 minutes long album is relatively varied considering that the band´s core style is brutal technical death metal, but as mentioned above Nile successfully vary their tracks so the listener is not only treated to death grinding brutal technical death metal, but also more atmospheric parts. We´re even treated to a suite in four parts (the title track, which closes the album), which features longer instrumental orchestral parts (played on keyboards).

Upon conclusion "In Their Darkened Shrines" is among the band´s most accessible and varied releases. The improved production values, compared to the two preceding studio albums, only further strengthens my positive feelings toward the album. This is in every possible way a high quality release and a 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved.

PSYCROPTIC The Scepter of the Ancients

Album · 2003 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"The Scepter of the Ancients" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Australian, Tasmania based death metal act Psycroptic. The album was independently released in May 2003. Psycroptic formed in 1999 and released their debut full-length studio album "The Isle Of Disenchantment" in 2001. Apparently the independently released and otherwise intriguing debut album didn´t stir the waters enough for a label to take notice as the band once again had to finance the recording of an album and release it independently.

...and that´s a bit of a shame, as there is definitely enough quality here (and on the debut) to warrant interest from labels. Stylistically the material on "The Scepter of the Ancients" continue the brutal technical death metal style of "The Isle Of Disenchantment (2001)", but it´s audible Psycroptic have grown as songwriters and that they have honed their playing skills too, because "The Scepter of the Ancients" is a step up in quality in all departments compared to the debut album. Multiple tempo changes on all tracks, ultra fast riffing/drumming, and various forms of extreme vocals, ranging from deep growling, to high pitched screaming, to low end piggy grunting. Lead vocalist Matthew Chalk sounds positively deranged/schizophrenic here. It´s a great extreme metal vocal performance and a lot of praise goes out to Chalk for delivering something a bit different from the norm.

The quality is high throughout and all tracks are brutal and highly energetic pieces of technical death metal. While the material aren´t the most varied in terms of telling the tracks apart (which isn´t unusual for the genre), it´s one of the more diverse releases on the scene and there is a touch of originality here that you don´t hear everyday either. The raw and primal sounding production job lends the material a great organic quality, but it´s still a detailed sound where all instruments and vocals are clearly audible in the mix. Upon conclusion "The Scepter of the Ancients" is through and through a high quality release and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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