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
4.47 | 180 ratings
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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
GORGUTS
4.45 | 30 ratings
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DEATH Individual Thought Patterns Album Cover Individual Thought Patterns
DEATH
4.35 | 129 ratings
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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.32 | 81 ratings
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NOCTURNUS The Key Album Cover The Key
NOCTURNUS
4.39 | 24 ratings
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BEYOND CREATION The Aura Album Cover The Aura
BEYOND CREATION
4.43 | 18 ratings
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CRYPTOPSY None So Vile Album Cover None So Vile
CRYPTOPSY
4.33 | 38 ratings
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NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest Album Cover Those Whom the Gods Detest
NILE
4.32 | 41 ratings
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AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence Album Cover Fragmentary Evidence
AUGURY
4.35 | 22 ratings
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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
NILE
4.34 | 24 ratings
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DEATH Human Album Cover Human
DEATH
4.23 | 133 ratings
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technical death metal Music Reviews

CEREMONY OF SILENCE Oútis

Album · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The procession of technical death metal marches on well into the 21st century and as the years cede to decades the incremental changes seem to continue to ratchet up the musical form into almost unrecognizable amalgamations of sound when compared to the nascent old school death metal acts that are now well over 30 years in the past. In recent years the trend to meld dissonant abstract death metal riffing with overtly blackened mood setting embellishments has become the new norm in death metal evolution and there is certainly no shortage of bands jumping on this technically demanding bandwagon that was popularized by Gorguts’ 1998 masterwork “Obscura” and slowly but surely has been taken to new extremes ever since.

CEREMONY OF SILENCE is one of the newer kids on the block spawned in the midlands section of Slovakia in the city of Zvolen. Formed in 2015 this mere duo of Vilozof (guitar, bass, vocals) and Svjatogor (drums) has mastered the seemingly impossible task of balancing long abstract technical workouts with grace and implements just as much atmospheric elegance as it does delivering the relentless pummelation of dissonant death metal bombast. Having studied well at the University of Claustrophobic Cacophony with a PHD with degrees in everything Ulcerate, Sunless, Artificial Brain and Howls of Ebb, CEREMONY OF SILENCE released its own slice of technical disso-death in the form of OÚTIS (a term that means “Nobody” in Ancient Greek) which pummeled fans of the style into submission in early 2019.

What CEREMONY OF SILENCE delivers on OÚTIS is an atonal brutality run amok with the now common abstract death metal antics proposed by Gorguts and Portal and taken far afield by newer acts like Ulcerate, Ad Nauseam, Pyrrhon and Mitochondria. Adding to the bleakness are those infamous spidery guitar sweeps brought to the greater metal world’s attention by none other than the black metal legends Deathspell Omega and of course it wouldn’t be a proper disso-death technical marathon without the buried anguished grunts and growls delivered amidst the incessant atmospheric turmoil. By dishing out ample doses of cyclical repetition amongst the oft aimless drifting throughout OÚTIS, CEREMONY OF SILENCE does an excellent job of evoking the abstract din of classic Incantation while keeping an alienating reference to the modern trends of death metal that your parents just wouldn’t fully understand.

OÚTIS truly delivers a product of outstanding proportions with the proper ingredients required for a modern disso-death classic yet falls just short of cutting the ties with the pioneers that proceeded and the obvious influences that coalesced into every brutal metal workouts and abstract atmospheric swirly-fest however CEREMONY OF SILENCE proves without a doubt they are worthy of entering the sacred chambers where only the most skilled and technically adept can craft a veritable 21st century excursion into one of metal’s most alienating sectors. The album showcases an excellent balancing act with accessible rhythmic chunks alternating with the less tangible nature of dissonant meandering. While Vilozof does well by serving as guitarist, bassist and grower-in-chief, it’s really the percussive fortitude of skin slayer Svjatogor who animates this album with nuanced precision.

All in all there are little or no complaints about the seven tracks and 35 minute playing time of CEREMONY OF SILENCE’s thus far sole contribution to the world of tech disso-death however the nagging comparisons to the aforementioned bands do ring true to the point that the blurry abstractness of the atmospheric uncertainties cross over into the realms of identifiable idiosyncrasies which CEREMONY OF SILENCE doesn’t quite muster up at this stage. While an excellent slice of technical abstractness fortified by the most competent bouts of proficiency, ultimately the band comes off as an abstract blur of originality where one disso-death band bleeds into another. A surge of creative infusion would go a long way but having said that it is of little doubt that this masterful duo has conjured up some magnificent sounds that showcase the unadulterated spirit of modern extreme metal. An excellent ominous entry into the ever-growing field of disso-death technical wizardry and one that will surely please fans of this wild raucous style of metal.

THE FACELESS In Becoming a Ghost

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"In Becoming a Ghost" is the fourth full-length studio album by US, California based death metal act The Faceless. The album was released through Sumerian Records in December 2017. It´s the successor to "Autotheism" from August 2012. Only band founder/guitarist/keyboard player/clean- and vocoder vocalist Michael Keene remains from the lineup who recorded the predecessor and by this point it´s 100% clear that The Faceless is Keene´s baby. Further proof of that is that he has also recorded the bass parts on "In Becoming a Ghost" and is responsible for producing, engineering, mixing, and mastering "In Becoming a Ghost" at his own Keene Machine Studios. So although Ken Sorceron (vocals), Justin McKinney (rhythm guitars), and Chason Westmoreland (drums) are credited for performing on "In Becoming a Ghost", I´m not so sure that it´s a permanent band constellation.

While The Faceless first two albums ("Akeldama" from 2006 and "Planetary Duality" from 2008) were both scorching technical and quite brutal death metal albums with a progressive edge, "Autotheism" took the progressive element of the band´s music a bit further and left behind some of the most brutal parts of the band´s music, and that tendency is continued on "In Becoming a Ghost" which is a highly progressive and technical death metal album, featuring more clean vocals than any The Faceless releases before it and the album also features a lot of excursions into progressive metal territories in terms of unconventional song structures and songwriting ideas. This is still to some extent death metal and at times still pretty extreme music, but the extremity of the band´s music is often overshadowed by the adventurous songwriting ideas and melodic and atmospheric approach to their compositions.

"In Becoming a Ghost" is well produced, featuring a powerful, detailed, and clear sound, which suits the material well. So upon conclusion it´s another high quality release from The Faceless. If you enjoyed the more progressive inclined songwriting on "Autotheism" over the technical and brutal death metal of "Akeldama" and "Planetary Duality", then "In Becoming a Ghost" should most certainly be right down your alley. Compared to "Autotheism" I´d even say that The Faceless master this style better on "In Becoming a Ghost", which to my ears is a more coherrent release (including the cover version of "Shake the Disease" by Depeche Mode). The one feature bringing my rating down a bit is the clean vocals. They aren´t out of tune or badly performed but Keene simply doesn´t have a very interesting or distinct sounding voice. It´s like listening to the clean vocals on Enslaved´s releases. They´re decently performed and quite inoffensive, but they don´t really add much to the music. They are just there and it´s hard not to think that the music would have had more impact with a stronger vocalist performing the clean vocal parts. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.

THE FACELESS Planetary Duality

Album · 2008 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Planetary Duality" is the second full-length studio album by US, California based death metal act The Faceless. The album was released through Sumerian Records in November 2008 (reissued by Lifeforce Records in February 2009). It is a self-produced release produced by guitarist/clean vocalist Micheal Keene. Drummer Lyle Cooper has been added to the lineup since the debut album "Akeldama" (2006) (which was mostly recorded using session drummers) but the rest of the lineup who recorded the debut album remains.

The music style featured on the album is technical death metal. It´s both pretty brutal and melodic at the same time. The guitar riffs are sharp and fast with lots of precise and technically complex drumming to go along. The vocals are mostly deep brutal growls (a few higher pitched screams too) but there are occasional clean/vocoder vocals featured too which is great for the variation of the album. One of my favorite features on the album are the many melodic guitar solos though. Very skillfully executed and an oasis of beauty in the midst of the brutal fast-paced and busy death metal. The vocoder parts provide the music with some futuristic/sci-fi sounding atmospheric moments which are another part of the music providing it with variation.

The album opens with the short and brutal "Prison Born" and quickly continues with the more progressive "The Ancient Covenant". That song is simply amazing technical death metal. Powerful and fast with some great guitar motifs. "Shape Shifters" is a short instrumental breather before "Coldy Calculated Design" begins and we´re once again treated with a fast-paced and technical death metal track. "Xeno Christ" is a bit different and heavier but still with faster parts. Great varied song that one. "Sons of Belial" is the song with most obvious use of clean vocals even though those vocals actually only occur twice in the song and only for a few seconds at a time. I didn´t care much for the clean vocals the first many times I listened to the album but I´ve come to appreciate them a little more with repeated listens of the album.

"Legion of the Serpent" is next and it´s the most melodic song on the album, featuring some interesting melodic breaks. It´s a great song and very important for the diversity of the album (the fast-paced neo-classical parts remind me of The Black Dahlia Murder). "Planetary Duality I : Hideous Revelation" is an intro to "Planetary Duality II : A Prophecies Fruition". The short intro track has some sci-fi samples which really creates the right atmopshere before the going into "Planetary Duality II : A Prophecies Fruition" which is another excellent technical death metal track.

The musicianship is outstanding on all posts. This is very complex and demanding music and The Faceless are a very tight playing unit. Add to that a clear, powerful, and detailed sound production and you have a high quality release on your hands. It´s like listening to the US hybrid version of Obscura and Necrophagist, although The Faceless don´t sound like a close. But there are a lot of similarities.

So upon conclusion The Faceless hit something special on "Planetary Duality". They hinted on greatness on "Akeldama", but they´ve developed their style a lot since the debut album, and by incorporating a lot of different influences and musical elements and songwriting ideas to their compositions (technical death metal, brutal death metal, progressive metal, even black metal), "Planetary Duality" is a both varied and intriguing technical death metal release from start to finish. They keep the listener on his/her toes throughout the album but still maintain a sort of accessibility that you don´t get often when listening to highly technical death metal releases. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

CATTLE DECAPITATION Terrasite

Album · 2023 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Terrasite" is the ninth full-length studio album by US, San Diego, California based death metal/deathgrind act Cattle Decapitation. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in May 2023. It´s the successor to "Death Atlas" from November 2019 and the quintet lineup who recorded the predecessor is still intact. "Terrasite" is dedicated to former Cattle Decapiation drummer Gabriel Serbian (also of The Locust among other acts) who died from a fentanyl overdose in April 2022.

Stylistically the material on "Terrasite" is a continuation of the technical death metal/deathgrind of the previous couple of releases. Cattle Decapitation have added some black metal elements to their sound (some of the tremolo riffs and blasting parts), but other than that, they sound unmistakably like they´ve done since "Monolith Of Inhumanity" (2012) or at the very least since "The Anthropocene Extinction" (2015). So this is still frenetic, energetic, brutal, and sharp sounding deathgrind featuring loads of tempo changes, riff and rhythm styles, experimental songwriting ideas, and of course the versatile voice and varied vocal delivery of Travis Ryan in front. He screams, snarls, growls, and performs his gnarly clean vocals when that is called for (this time around he even sings "real" clean vocals on the closing track "Just Another Body"), and nothing sounds like it doesn´t fit or as if it has been forced to fit a song. No clean vocal parts are for example added for mainstream appeal. They are there because they fit the song, and only if they fit the song. Something a lot of more formulaic contemporary artists could learn from.

The lyrical themes are still all sunshine and flowers, describing end of the world scenarios (particularly the end of human life), extreme misanthropy (the lyric line: "There's so many of us that need to die, Like a swarm of flies, there's too many of us" from "Scourge of the Offspring", describes it pretty well), and the need for environmental change. Cattle Decapitation were always a politically charged act and Ryan successfully treads the line between giving up/delivering black hole despair and fiercely fighting for the changes he thinks are necessary for both human and animal life to survive and exist in harmony.

As every Cattle Decapitation album before it, "Terrasite" is not an easy listening experience. Although the sound production values are clear, powerful, and detailed, and you can easily hear every instrument and vocal part in the mix, the tracks are generally pretty complex and requires some spins to sink in. When they do it´s incredible how many details and interesting songwriting ideas Cattle Decapitation are able to cram into their songs, and as a result there is a longivity to their music, which extents beyond just listening to the album a few times. As far as development of their sound I hear several new elements, but most prominently on the 10:15 minutes long album closer "Just Another Body", which is partially a pretty slow and almost doomy track, featuring dominant use of keyboards, which provide the track with an occasional symphonic edge. The clean vocal part on the track is also something new for Cattle Decapitation and shows that Ryan is not done surprising the fans. Thankfully he is still able to keep things authentic and he doesn´t deliver anything too anthemic and mainstream oriented... so fear not clean vocal haters, this is still very extreme metal.

Upon conclusion "Terrasite" is another triumphant death metal/deathgrind release by Cattle Decapitation, which stays true to the style of music they introduced on "Monolith Of Inhumanity" (2012), but follows the natural development of said style from "The Anthropocene Extinction" (2015) to "Death Atlas" (2019) to now this more diverse and varied take on that style. These guys are at the forefront of the contemporary extreme metal music scene and they deserve every bit of hype and recognition they´ve received over the years. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

CONVULSING Perdurance

Album · 2024 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The blackened disso-death lone shooter Brendan Sloan emerged from city of Sydney but relocated to Adelaide, Australia and is better known as the raging extreme metal maverick CONVULSING, the one-man death metal band who also plays well with others in the disso-death metal band Altars as well as the post-rock band Dumbsaint. As a solo artist CONVULSING has been cranking out a series of albums since 2016’s debut “Errata” and finding a receptive audience along the way. After a six year hiatus the CONVULSING franchise has seen a new release in the form of PERDURANCE emerges in 2024 and showcases Sloan’s propensity for well-constructed technical death metal. While a solo project, CONVULSING becomes a three man band in a live setting.

PERDURANCE is a veritable beast of eight tracks that add up to about 55 1/2 minutes (counting the bonus track on some releases) and showcases Sloan’s focus on dissonant chords and a rather stripped down death metal sound in comparison to full band efforts. While tech death often employs riffing sessions whizzing by at a million kilos per second with as many time signature changes and micro-licks as humanly possible, PERDURANCE showcases a more direct approach to unleash the mangled ugly monstrosity of disso-death with repetitive chords that form cyclical loops, presumably a trait gleaned from Sloan’s post-rock efforts with Dumbsaint. Likewise the blastbeats and guitar wizardry is reserved for small doses rather than an incessant attack. At least in the beginning of the album.

In other words PERDURANCE is as much about atmosphere as it is about death metal which is made all the more apparent by slower clean guitar strums on tracks like “Inner Oceans” that build up dissonant riffs slowly before erupting into guttural growl led frenzies of highly distorted guitar chords from hell strummed in reverse manners. The track simply titled “ - “ is a 3 1/2 minute death ambient track. Yeah that’s a new genre, huh? It’s a dark ambient series of sound build ups but sounds as muddled and claustrophobic as the metal aspects of the album. Serving as an intermission between two halves, the following “Gossamer Pall” picks up speed into heavier and faster death metal territory sounding more like a fully fueled disso-death band at this point the progressive aspects are more apparent with a more developed compositional approach and deviations from the straightforwardness of the first half of the album.

“Shattered Temples” continues with the quickened percussion, more dynamic riffing frenzies and overall more varied compositional texture without sacrificing the apocalyptic mindset set out on the very first track of the album. Saving the best for last, PERDURANCE ends with the 13-minute “Endurance” which showcases CONVULSING’s ability to weave atmospheric-rich textures into disso-death meets post-rock precision without compromising any of the ferocity. The most progressive track of the entire album, this one unleashes a series of twists and turns. This track covers all ground whether it be the post-metal style slower parts or the raging fury of the highly adrenalized manic outbursts of high speed disso-death ferocity. The track nicely ratchets up a series of ideas and allows an organic process of evolution to undergo with more riffing styles presented than the rest of the album combined.

While not on the Bandcamp site, the YouTube version of the album ends with a Porcupine Tree cover titled “A Smart Kid” from the band’s “Stupid Dream” album. CONVULSING turns it into a nearly 8 minute post-metal extravaganza with clean vocals. Very much in opposition to the rest of the album so perhaps it was nixed off the Bandcamp at the last minute because it sounds more like a bonus track than a cohesive part of the album. Not bad though. Overall this is a brilliant new release from CONVULSING especially considering this is a one-man band at least in the studio. While i tend to prefer the more claustrophobic and cavernous forms of disso-death this latest release by CONVULSING certainly scratches the itch. Highly recommended for fans of bands like Pyrrhon, Discordance Axis, Ulcerate, Krallice and Mitochondrion

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