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.

technical death metal top albums

Showing only albums and EPs | Based on members ratings & MMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

DEATH Symbolic Album Cover Symbolic
DEATH
4.46 | 143 ratings
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NILE Annihilation of the Wicked Album Cover Annihilation of the Wicked
NILE
4.41 | 38 ratings
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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
NILE
4.62 | 11 ratings
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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
DEATH
4.31 | 105 ratings
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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.33 | 58 ratings
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DEATH Individual Thought Patterns Album Cover Individual Thought Patterns
DEATH
4.27 | 96 ratings
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
GORGUTS
4.34 | 23 ratings
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NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest Album Cover Those Whom the Gods Detest
NILE
4.30 | 30 ratings
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AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence Album Cover Fragmentary Evidence
AUGURY
4.37 | 15 ratings
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DEATH Human Album Cover Human
DEATH
4.19 | 95 ratings
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NOCTURNUS The Key Album Cover The Key
NOCTURNUS
4.31 | 16 ratings
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AUGURY Concealed Album Cover Concealed
AUGURY
4.30 | 17 ratings
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technical death metal Music Reviews

ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence

Album · 1991 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
voila_la_scorie
Yes, I'm a bit of a music history buff, particularly when it comes to early heavy metal. Recently, though, I have become fascinated by the development of the heavy metal subgenres in the 1980's, many of which reached full fruition by the late eighties and early nineties. Death metal, or at least the American take on death metal, strikes me as originally being the Floridian interpretation of Californian thrash metal. Most American death metal recordings I've recently acquired either originated in Florida or the bands were from other eastern parts of the country but moved to Florida.

Athiest were one of the Florida scene bands to emerge in the eighties. Though formed in 1984 under a different name, they became Athiest as death metal was coming into its own in the late 80's and released their debut before the decade was spent. Their sophomore effort, however, is held in particular high regard for its bold steps toward technical death metal. While some bands I have heard remind me of Slayer/Possessed/Kreator, Athiest's sound on this album mostly suggest a more traditional thrash metal root, with early Metallica and Exodus frequently coming to mind. The guitar sound and riffs, as well as the lead solos, are closer to the early thrash sound to my ears; songs like "Your Life's Retribution" and "Enthralled in Essence" suggesting the guitarists honed their chops on "Kill 'em All" and "Ride the Lightning". The vocals too are more aggressive, thrash-like shouting than death metal's gravelly growls.

Thrash metal connotations aside, the more interesting aspect of this album is the giant leap toward technical death metal. Athiest' second album is said to have pushed the technical envelope further and it is very obvious that the band were out to succinctly combine aggressive speed with technical agility. In a way, I find this album to be a perfect bridge between thrash and technical death metal, at once being reminded of Sacrifice's "Soldiers of Misfortune" and Metallica on the thrash side and Cynic and later Death on the death side.

One key element to Athiest's sound was the bass playing prowess of bassist Roger Patterson, who brought incredible technical skill and composition-writing ability. Tragically, he suffered the fate of too many band members when his tour van crashed on the way back to Florida from California in the wee hours, yet another case of the driver pushing himself too far and dozing off at the wheel. The liner notes to the CD's re-release say that had the band been higher profile, Patterson's death would have been as shocking to the metal community as Cliff Burton's.

For the music on this album, Patterson had already come up with all the bass parts, and being the highly skilled player he was, it was not easy to find someone who could play his parts. The band called in Tony Choy of Cynic, perhaps not a surprise as Cynic were another band eagerly pursuing the technical death metal gauntlet. The results are stupendous as the bass playing stands out amidst the intense guitar and drum work. I feel, though, that the bass and guitar levels are rendered a bit louder over the vocals and drums, at least on the re-issue with bonus tracks.

And how about this re-issue? It includes several pre-production versions of songs, which sound as good as the album tracks on my ear buds, and some demos and instrumental versions. Though not essential for appreciating this album, the additional tracks are one of the better bonus collections I have heard.

It seems most consider this a highly important album in the annals of death metal history and I won't be one to disagree. It's an impressive piece of work!

DECREPIT BIRTH Diminishing Between Worlds

Album · 2008 · Technical Death Metal
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voila_la_scorie
So, I see here on MMA that these guys formed with the intention of playing brutal technical death metal with influences from the early Florida death metal scene. I am not sure how much of the music on this album reflects the latter; however, the former is firmly in place. This is fast, brutal, and all-over-the-place technical death metal.

I think I stumbled across the band while checking out various death metal artists on Amazon, and Decrepit Birth appeared as a recommended artist. At the time, I was open to anything and a quick listen to them on YouTube left me with the one decision: which album to get. I decided on this, their second album (out of four so far), and for it what is, I rather like it.

I must say that it is not easy for me ever to describe an album like this, nor is it easy to pick out favourite songs. The reason is that the music typically follows the same construct from song to song. We're talking about a single vocalist who roars a deep gutteral vocal, blazing fast guitar leads and complex and speedy riffing, blasting drums with both double-bass pummel drumming and speedy and complex rhythms beat out, or rather thrashed out, on the snare and toms. My guess is that the bass guitar is just as busy. I usually pick out favourite songs by awesome riffs, a cool bass break, a good melody, or some outstanding feature that makes a track distinct from the others, and it is really difficult to do that here. While a pop metal song might be described as a good children's book read out by a dramatic story teller, Decrepit Birth play more like an auctioneer. Of DOOM! Ha, ha!

But seriously, once you start giving each track it's own ear space, there are lots of bits of cool stuff in there. Just listening to the title track now, I can here some wonderful lead guitar melodies and some cool riffs here and there. There's one of the bass breaks I look out for showing up on "Enigmatic Forms". Listen to that mellow, clean guitar opening on "Dimensions Intertwine" that leads into some Nile-like riffing before returning to typical Decrepit Birth style, and then surpise! acoustic guitar! Admittedly though, just skipping through the songs does make the album seem a little repetative. So again, each track needs to be given some ear time to catch when the speed slows down, and great riff drops, and guitar lead goes soaring by, or something different happens. Interestingly enough, there's a track called "And Time Begins" which was the title of their first album.

Like many extreme metal albums I have picked up recently, I find this album sounds good and is fine to listen to front to back and any track can be pulled off for stand alone listen (the last is a short instrumental with, I believe, synthesized strings). But again, it's not easy to call out any particular favourites. The recording quality is good. The album sounds great and is on the loud side, so I usually have to click the volume a notch or two down when the ear buds are in and this comes on.

Recommened for fans of technical, brutal death metal!

CONTRARIAN To Perceive Is To Suffer

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
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Nightfly
Any album that features George Kollias on drums is always going to pique my interest. One such album is this, To Perceive Is To Suffer, the second full length album from progressive/technical death metallers Contrarian.

Despite the death metal tag to call them that would be over simplifying things. This is not surprisingly really complex stuff indeed and contains elements of jazz rock/fusion amongst the more extreme metal traits. The sound is surprisingly sparse with each instrument clear as a bell, much of the guitar work is relatively cleanly played underpinned by a toppy bass sound and of course George Kollias’s relentless drumming onslaught. Imagine Watchtower if they’d been a death metal band, throw in some latter day Death and you won’t be a million miles away. With Kollias taking on vocals as well, as expected they’re of the death growl persuasion most of the time. The exception being At Fate’s Hands which is cleanly though somewhat weakly sung. Each musician excels in his chosen field with plenty of jaw dropping instrumental work from all with constantly shifting rhythmic structures and blistering lead work. The only problem, as is the case with much of this sort of stuff is lack of memorability. Sure, you can’t reasonably expect an immediate hit from music this complex but it’s an album I admire rather than love, even after a number of plays. Still there’s no denying the skill involved in putting together compositions of this nature and it’s largely for that reason and the excellent musicianship that it warrants 3 ½ stars, ½ a star more than I originally was feeling it deserved.

NOCTURNUS Thresholds

Album · 1992 · Technical Death Metal
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Warthur
On their second album Nocturnus leaned even harder on the sci-fi aspects of their debut, dialling back the death metal Satanism but keeping the technical death metal virtuosity intact. With a clean production style and carefully judged keyboard work from Louis Panzer emphasising the spacey aesthetic, it might not have as gripping a concept as The Key but it's far from a major musical step backwards. As an evolution of Nocturnus' sound, it hints at the directions that the band might have gone in were it not for an extended hiatus and lineup fragmentation derailing them for much of the rest of the 1990s.

DECAPITATED Anticult

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Anticult" is the 7th full-length studio album by Polish metal act Decapitated. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in July 2017. It´s the successor to "Blood Mantra" from 2014 and features one lineup change as bassist Paweł Pasek has been replaced by Hubert Więcek.

Stylistically the material on the 8 track, 37:49 minutes long album continue the technical extreme metal style of it´s two direct predecessors. It´s a combination of death and heavy groove/thrash metal, with aggressive screaming "core" tinged vocals. There are audible references to artists like Meshuggah, Machine Head, and Gojira, at various points throughout the album (especially "Earth Scar" features a clear Gojira influence), but Decapitated still manage to produce something which doesn´t sound like a clone of any of the mentioned artists.

The technical level of playing is high. Tempo changes, heavy grooves, fast precision drumming, aggressive vocals, and sharp riffs, are some of the elements which make up the band´s music. Everything is delivered with great conviction and passion, and it´s a great joy listening to a band as skilled as Decapitated perform their music. They also manage to put atmospheric parts on the album (predominantly created by effect laden lead guitar parts), which provide the music with some variation. Not that "Anticult" is a one-dimensional release by any means. It only takes a few listens to remember all tracks, and the material are generally pretty catchy. A good example is "Kill the Cult", which features a killer groove laden riff, and a punchy hook laden chorus.

"Anticult" features a powerful, raw, and detailed sound production, which isn´t especially organic, but isn´t sterile either, and ultimately the production suits the material featured on the album perfectly. "Blood Mantra (2014)" was a great quality album by Decapitated, but "Anticult" ultimately comes off just a bit more focused and memorable. Vogg´s crushing precision riffing is as always the greatest asset of the band´s music, but there are many high level performances on the album. I could have wished for a more personal vocal style, but Rafał Piotrowski arguably does what he does with great conviction and passion. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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