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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DEATH Symbolic Album Cover Symbolic
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
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4.46 | 23 ratings
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DEATH Individual Thought Patterns Album Cover Individual Thought Patterns
DEATH
4.28 | 102 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
4.27 | 62 ratings
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CRYPTOPSY None So Vile Album Cover None So Vile
CRYPTOPSY
4.31 | 28 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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DEATH Human Album Cover Human
DEATH
4.17 | 105 ratings
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NILE Vile Nilotic Rites Album Cover Vile Nilotic Rites
NILE
4.47 | 8 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

NOCTURNUS AD Paradox

Album · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
NOCTURNUS has always been the odd band out in the old school death metal world. Founded in the prolific Tampa scene era where early pioneers Deicide, Obituary and Death were breaking free from the thrash metal cocoon, this band led by Mike Browning formed after his stint with the early years of another Tampa legend, Morbid Angel. Right from the getgo Browning had a different vision for his new baby which meant jumping off the bandwagon of bloody and gory awe and heading to space for more sci-fi inspired themes. Along with this thematic shift so too did the musical direction. In 1988 the band added the unheard of instrument of keyboards to its death metal orotundity and by 1990 had created a unique specimen in the death metal universe with “The Key” which crafted a thematic journey of a cyborg traveling back in time to assassinate Jesus Christ terminator style! The album is a classic and a personal favorite as well.

The band squeaked out a second album, “Thresholds” before friction broke the band up however despite Browning founding NOCTURNUS, he hadn’t trademarked the brand name so his sneaky colleagues did so behind his back, kicked him out and continued on. They released one more album titled “Ethereal Tomb” in 2000 before the backlash forced them into retirement. The whole NOCTURNUS project had pretty much been assassinated just like poor JC in “The Key.” It’s fair to say that nobody ever expected a return to the early days when old school death metal was rampaging across the Floridian peninsula like Hurricane Andrew on a very bad day. Come 2013 and Earache Records decided to re-release “Thresholds” for the first time and when all was said and done Browning’s following band After Death began to play under the name NOCTURNUS on a Mexican tour as well as for Deathfest 2014 where they played “The Key” in its entirety. To avoid legal actions the band name was quickly changed to NOCTURNUS AD and that’s where this album comes in.

PARADOX pretty much picks up where “The Key” left off and makes good on all those squandered opportunities of what should have been only at the same timeline as the original. With all the evolutions in death metal over the past 30 years, it’s amazing that Browning could put together a worthy successor to the classic that has only gained more avid followers as time elapses. The band went as far as to record the album in full retro regalia down to the production. This truly sounds like it was recorded as the followup to the 1990 classic and even the theme is a continuation of the cyborg terminator run amok in a post-apocalyptic era. Even the AD part of the new moniker signifies a sequel to cover art’s instant wink and nod to the past glories. However despite insinuating “The Key Part 2,” this is really the band After Death under a new banner of allegiance. This band consists not only of Mike Browning on vocals and drum abuse duties but finds the twin guitar attack from Belial Koblak from bands like Acheron, Dethroned and Godless along with Demian Heftel from Brutality, Astaroth and Contorted. The bass duties are carried out by ex-Obituary member Daniel Tucker with keyboardist Josh Holdren adding all those spooky synth sounds and trippy intros.

Attempting a retro rehash of a classic like “The Key” is risky business for sure but given the unfair nature of being kicked out of your own band, it seems fans may be a tad sympathetic and willing to give this a chance at least it was the case for me. What i wasn’t expecting though is how well done and down right fun this album is. True that it shamelessly transports back to the 90s and recreates a near blueprint of “The Key” in every possible way but let’s keep a couple things in mind here. This IS an album about time travel and all so why the fuck not, however none of this would amount to a rat’s mangy ass if the album wasn’t really, really good and that it is. In a world where technical death metal has become as complex as some of the most demanding classical scores throughout history, it is refreshing to hear an album that simply cranks out the old school charm without crafting works so nebulous that it requires a few listens just to sink in.

PARADOX as good as it is does not match up to the original “The Key” but is much better than i ever could have hoped. With a tight cast of musical maestros who are more than competent on their respective instruments, the powerful bombast of the twin guitars, bass, drums and subtlety of the swirling synth lines conspire to create one of the most satisfying comeback albums of recent years. All the ingredients for a find retro death metal album are here in great abundance. The composiitons are all crafted to perfection and the riffs are memorable and best of all the variations are clever and laid out in such a way so that the album never becomes monotonous. While newer death metal albums are tending to go into more psychedelic arenas, NOCTURNUS AD returns to the brutal bombast of the no nonsense era with the extra keyboard elements adding all those cosmic touches that make this a spectacular release with pummeling energetic deliveries and a compelling example of picking up the pieces decades after everything fell apart. Will this band strike again? Hard to say if the band will leave this time and another name change is in order but in the meantime we got at least one album out of the NOCTURNUS AD brand name.

NILE Vile Nilotic Rites

Album · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
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Kev Rowland
In the years between the release of 2015’s ‘What Should Not Be Unearthed’ and 2019’s ‘Vile Nilotic Rites’ there has been some changes in the Nile camp, with the departure of Dallas Toler-Wade after some 20 years of being in the band. The band are again back as a quartet, with Sanders and Kollias being joined by Brad Parris (bass, vocals) and Brian Kingsland (guitars, vocals), but most importantly is what has happened to the music. Nile have looked back towards their roots in many ways, yet are also pushing forward with an album which is many ways is one of the most varied they have ever released. There is a brightness within it, a light which is shining, which allows them to move away from the lower register without ever losing any of the heaviness.

There are times when both guitars and bass are tracking note for note at incredible speed, with the bass being played so high up on the neck that it sounds almost like another guitar which allows space to be filled by the drumming of Kollias who has apparently got a second wind as this release probably contains his best performance yet. Apparently the band changed the way they undertook pre-production this time so when George was tracking his drums he had a much better idea of the finished sound. We even have orchestral passages which allow the band to have improved contrast so they can really come back firing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Nile album I haven’t really enjoyed, but this is taking things to a whole new level. The use of brass during “Seven Horns of War” is simply inspired, yet when the band really kick in the song becomes something down, dirty, disgusting and most definitely Nile.

It is still technical death metal, but in many ways they are pushing the boundaries and taking the genre into new directions. Lyrically Sanders is still pushing the boat with references to Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Levantine history, and who else would have a song about zombie ants? Sanders and Kollias are firmly at the helm, and with the new guys firmly on board and bedded in on the live circuit, they have created what may just be the best album of their career. It is certainly their most diverse, without losing any of the power and brutality for which they are renowned. Simply essential.

NILE What Should Not be Unearthed

Album · 2015 · Technical Death Metal
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Kev Rowland
This 2015 album was the fourth in eight years with the same line-up of Karl Sanders (guitars, bass, vocals) , Dallas Toler-Wade (guitars, bass, v) and George Kollias (drums). Unlike many metal bands, drummer Kollias is a key songwriter, contributing the music to most of the tracks on the album. At this point it was 20 years since their debut EP, and although only Sanders was still there from those early days, the band had really matured and were (and are) at the pinnacle of technical death metal. Is there another band within the genre who are so instantly recognisable and who consistently deliver albums of such high calibre?

Some people try to make the argument that if you’ve got a Nile album in your collection then you really don’t need any more, but could you just have one album by Sabbath, or just one by Mk II Deep Purple? In each case they have a style they have made very much their own, yet each album is very different in its own right yet conforming to a certain style. I have always loved the technical virtuosity combined with brutal heaviness which is typical of Nile, combined with vocals which sound as if they are being dragged out from a demonic plane. 20 years in the game and the band are only getting heavier and more powerful with age – this is not a sign of a band going gently into the good night, but is going to be kicking and screaming and devil take the hindmost. Brutal and fast with incredible note density combined with dynamics and different shades of dark to provide contrast, this is yet another incredibly strong example of the very best in the genre.

NOCTURNUS AD Paradox

Album · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
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Warthur
Once upon a time there was Nocturnus, who put out a couple of really solid technical death metal albums in the form of The Key and Thresholds before original founder Mike Browning and the rest of the group. Then there was After Death, Mike's next group, which took its name from a song from The Key and allowed Mike to keep his hand in the game.

Now there's Nocturnus AD, After Death having evolved into the full-fledged Nocturnus successor group they'd always had the potential to be. With Nocturnus themselves having been broken up for over a decade, it seems reasonable enough to assume that if Browning's former comrades there had intended to do anything with the name, they'd have done it by now. As it is, the field is clear for Browning to reconfigure After Death to deliver his own vision for where Nocturnus might have gone under his own direction.

If the band name weren't enough of the clue, the cover art should give away what the angle is here: yes, this might not be called "The Key Part 2: Death Metal Boogaloo", but thematically and stylistically speaking it's pretty much following on the footsteps of the Nocturnus debut album. (Yes, the time-travelling killer robot is back, and this time it's hanging out with Cthulhu.)

It's another technical death metal tour de force from Browning, who once again acts as both drummer and lead vocalist. If his drumming is a little prominent in the mix, that's all to the good, because his drums sound absolutely superb without taking anything away from the rest of the band. Despite having added blast beats to his bag of tricks, he's largely working in a style close to that of The Key, and if you really enjoyed that album and want more of the same I'd say that this hits that mark closer than any of the subsequent Nocturnus or After Death releases ever did.

ACID DEATH Random's Manifest

Album · 2000 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Random's Manifest" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Greek technical/progressive death/thrash metal act Acid Death. The album was released through Black Lotus Records in the spring of 2000. Acid Death formed in 1989 and released a couple of demos, a single, and split with Avulsed, before releasing their debut full-length studio album "Pieces of Mankind" in 1998. They disbanded in 2001, but not before releasing "Random's Manifest" in 2000. Acid Death reunited in 2011 and have released new material since. There´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as guitarist Themis K. has been replaced by Nikos Andreadakis.

Stylistically the material on "Random's Manifest" pretty much continues the progressive/technical death/thrash metal which was initiated on "Pieces of Mankind (1998)". It´s music highly focused on technical playing. Time signature changes, challenging death/thrash riffs, the occasional jazz/fusion part, and adventurous song structures are some of the characteristics of the music. "Random's Manifest" is a relatively diverse release with both harder edged aggressive sections, atmospheric sections, and melodic sections. Artists like Coroner, Sadist, and Death are valid references, but Acid Death aren´t copycats, and don´t really sound like anyone else in particular.

"Random's Manifest" features a decent sound production, but it could have been more powerful. The musicianship is on a high level on all posts, but the raw/growling vocals are a bit powerless to my ears. They get the job done, but they aren´t exactly caustic in nature. There´s sparse use of clean vocals on the album too, but it´s not enough to make much impact.

Upon conclusion "Random's Manifest" leaves me with a similar impression to the impression I got after listening to "Pieces of Mankind (1998)". It´s a good quality technical/progressive death/thrash metal release, and especially fans who favor technical playing and adventurous song structures over catchiness and hooks should be able to find quite a lot of listening satisfaction here. To my ears more focus on the songwriting and memorability of the tracks and less on the technical playing and creative songwriting ideas would have made the album a little more interesting. There´s nothing wrong with highly technical music, and artists like for example Atheist, Cynic, and Watchtower pull off playing very technical music and still successfully write memorable material, but Acid Death just aren´t in that league of players. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.

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