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
DEATH
4.41 | 145 ratings
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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
DEATH
4.40 | 106 ratings
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DEATH Individual Thought Patterns Album Cover Individual Thought Patterns
DEATH
4.34 | 97 ratings
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DEATH Human Album Cover Human
DEATH
4.32 | 98 ratings
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
GORGUTS
4.43 | 23 ratings
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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
NILE
4.58 | 11 ratings
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OBSCURA Omnivium Album Cover Omnivium
OBSCURA
4.35 | 31 ratings
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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.27 | 59 ratings
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CRYPTOPSY None So Vile Album Cover None So Vile
CRYPTOPSY
4.33 | 28 ratings
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BEYOND CREATION The Aura Album Cover The Aura
BEYOND CREATION
4.42 | 13 ratings
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AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence Album Cover Fragmentary Evidence
AUGURY
4.34 | 16 ratings
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NILE Annihilation of the Wicked Album Cover Annihilation of the Wicked
NILE
4.22 | 38 ratings
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technical death metal Music Reviews

PYRRHON Fever Kingdoms

EP · 2010 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Tech metal is one of those nebulous areas of music that i still find very difficult to figure out why some bands totally work for me and others don’t despite all the tech chops being checked off like clockwork. While bands like Deathspell Omega and Gorguts have soared to the top of the charts for their innovative and creative avant-garde take on established sub-genera of the metal universe, others sorta fall between the cracks. PYRRHON is one such band that despite cranking out all the expected techy aspects in abundance, sorta fail to inspire beyond a certain level and that is no more apparent than on their debut EP release FEVER KINGDOMS which came out in 2010.

The band was founded all the way back in 2008 when guitarist Dylan DiLeila and bassist Mike Sheen met by happenstance on a subway platform and then found drummer Alex Cohen to join the crew. Along the way they found Doug Moore to join in as vocalist. While PYRRHON has in recent years upped their game and joined the ranks of the more known ranks of the tech death metal universe alongside other surreal noisemakers such as Portal, Ulcerate or Mithras, on FEVER KINGDOMS they take a rather generic sounding approach with a sound that somehow finds itself somewhere between death metal with the gutteral growls and frenetic angular riffs but with more of a mathcore in yer face grind that churns on relentlessly in full extreme metal fashion.

While these elements are not that bad within themselves, this EP unfortunately lacks any sort of variety or attention grabbing ideas. And along with that, i find the drumming style of Alex Cohen a little lackluster for the type of tech death they are trying to capture. Another band that is similar is Gigan who master the surreal and detached psychedelic metal sound that they strive to create. In their case the musicians are bombastic and unapologetically ferocious and have the chops to pull it off as well as an imagination that allows a flexibility that is needed for the cosmic metal ride. FEVER KINGDOMS seems to just plod along predictably with each of the five tracks sounding alike with the same riffs recycled.

What it boils down to with PYRRHON’s debut is that something is woefully missing to give this sonic noise parade some sort of spirit. It plods along checking off all the boxes of extreme tech metal but doesn’t deliver in anything that is very satisfying. In the tech death universe where sonic maelstroms can easily resemble any other, the differences are very subtle and the tight wire act between something outstandingly original and woefully cliche and lackluster can be a very small margin of differences and in the case of PYRRHON’s FEVER KINGDOMS falls short of the interesting mark and leaves me quite unsatisfied especially after experiencing their more mature albums first.

GIGAN Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescense

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
GIGAN (ガイガン) took a five year hiatus from the studios but after fan speculation as to whether or not Godzilla finally won the final battle, the mystery is solved as the Tampa, FL tech death metal champs release their fourth album UNDULATING WAVES OF RAINBIOTIC IRIDESCENSE, which once again finds founder and main creative director Eric Hersemann ushering in yet another new lineup of the band. While drum abuser in chief Nathan Cotton joins the cast for a reprise following 2013’s “Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery And Super Science,” vocalist Ethan Browne is out and newbie Jerry Kavouriaris is in. However, to be honest despite the rotating cast of vocalists and musicians since the band’s inception, all manage to fit their respective roles perfectly and therefore one would be hard pressed to differentiate one vocalist’s ghoulish growls from another.

While tech death metal bands in the 21st century are aplenty and many fade into the generic backdrop of this boisterous and noisy nook of the musical universe, GIGAN (ガイガン) have proved themselves as rising above the din drudgery and taking the extreme metal by storm with their utterly unique mix of tech death chops, jittery angularities of mathcore style guitar riffage all packaged with dissonant Gorguts styled progressive freeform compositions laced with exuberant brumes of psychedelic haziness glistening over the bombastic aggressiveness that will somewhat bring other avant-garde noisemakers Pyrrhon, Portal or Cephalic Carnage to mind but only in a “nearest family tree” sorta way.

GIGAN (ガイガン) had been ramping up both their progressive and aggressive metal assaults on each subsequent album and IMHO peaked with their approach on their previous album “Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery And Super Science” with their hyperdrive relentless speed, churning angularities and psychedelic infusions that created the perfect speed metal mediation session. Hersemann steers his plangent progified beast into somewhat new directions with UNDULATING WAVES OF RAINBIOTIC IRIDESCENSE. One of the most noticeable differences is the abstaining of speed of light tech antics for the entirely of the space metal roller coaster ride.

While Cotton has proved himself to be one of those unbelievably blitzkrieg fast types of drummers who can navigate the percussive constructs like a caffeinated squirrel with an adrenaline rush, on this one he is much more selective in how he unleashes his fury. In fact, much of the time the drumming is more akin to sludge metal bands like EyeHateGod or post-metal bands like Isis. Same goes for the down-tuned guitars and overall feel of the album. It seems that there were no new limits to breach and the only place to go was to retreat to some sort of more familiar grounds and therefore the tempos have been tamed with speedy outbursts only occurring for periods of contrast. “Ocular Wavelength’s Floral Obstructions” is the perfect example of this. A down-tuned distortion-fest that runs the gamut of chilled out distorted heavy sludge metal that jumps into tech death overdrive and back.

While poising themselves more into an accessible arena that allow certain segments to breath, GIGAN (ガイガン) perhaps are trying to widen their appeal for only a small sliver of us freaks thoroughly enjoy music that pushes the triumvirate aspects of tech metal, progressive constructs and psychedelic detachment to break orbit into freeform destruction, but personally i find that is exactly what GIGAN (ガイガン) achieved with resounding success. For me UNDULATING WAVES OF RAINBIOTIC IRIDESCENSE is somewhat of a step down as far as exploration of taking the aforementioned elements to their extremes. Having disconnected from the world’s consciousness being achieved, it seems GIGAN (ガイガン) is more susceptible to finding that happy medium between freeform freedom and audience connection.

As with all GIGAN (ガイガン) albums, UNDULATING WAVES OF RAINBIOTIC IRIDESCENSE requires a number of listens to really sink in for even hardcore and jaded prog saturated metalheads such as myself can barely grasp this on a single spin. There are simply too many elements to keep track of and only patience can yield the proper results even if the process is equivalent to taking a census of hostile asteroids hurling through space in myriad directions. My first impression was of disappointment with the new stylistic approach but subsequent listens have me more impressed with the diversity that has blossomed from the new developments. Jazz infused tech drum rolls still grace the angular sonicscape, the expected guitar squeals still there but simply surrounded by less frenetic Gorguts-ish avant-garde sludgery. Yes, it grew on me. Another winner.

GIGAN Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery and Super Science

Album · 2013 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
GIGAN (ガイガン) forge ahead and create another dose of 21st century technical space death metal on their third album MULTI-DIMENSIONAL FRACTAL-SORCERY AND SUPER SCIENCE. And as the name implies this is indeed a twisted space age fantasy world run amok fortified by the marriage of pummeling brutal progressive death metal bathed in an icy cold space ambience that offers a glimpse into the farthest reaches of the galaxy as if the sonic resonance of an obliterated world had somehow transmitted its fractal based coding into musical form.

GIGAN (ガイガン) for all intents and purposes is really the baby of Eric Hersemann who covers most ground here. He contributes guitar, bass, synthesizers, theremin, xylophone, lyrics and production. Album number three finds two new members join ranks as Nathan Cotton replaces Kesava Doane as drum abuser in chief and Eston Browne taking the vocal parts away from John Collett II. Despite the new team players on this surreal death metal galactic journey, the band continues undeterred as GIGAN (ガイガン) spawns one of their most brutal, most progressive and most surreal psychedelic space metal releases of their career.

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL FRACTAL-SORCERY AND SUPER SCIENCE is in effect a refinement of the style that GIGAN (ガイガン) had begun to develop on their debut EP “Footsteps Of Gigan,” that being a definitive style of pummeling brutal yet technical death metal that utilizes aspects of math rock angularity with ridiculously jittery and unrelenting progressive time signature deviations yet soars along at a million miles an hour in a rather calculated manner. Sandwiched in between tracks is the sonic iridescence of frigid spaced out ambience that at it’s most intimidating sounds much like when a CD is skipping and when at its most placid more like a space fog or some sort of precognizant whale song being sorted out deep within a beluga’s brain.

Either way, the underlying psychedelic ambience seems to anchor the brutality thus keeping it navigating in a comprehensible stream rather than lash out viciously in unpredictable behaviors although the riffs crest out in peaks and troughs like schizophrenic sine waves on steroids. While classified as death metal due to the unintelligible animalistic bantering, screams and guttural growls, the guitar takes many liberties as once it establishes a clear path of ear canal destruction with pummeling extreme metal riffs, it takes little side journeys into angular alley with frenetic finger breaking workouts more akin to mathcore legends Psyopus or Behold….The Arctopus.

Hersemann had had extraordinary luck in attracting some of the most technically sophisticated drummers in his GIGAN (ガイガン) project with each ridiculously talented member dishing out one pummeling jazzy percussive variation after another as well as bantering blastbeats from the underworld and back. MULTI-DIMENSIONAL FRACTAL-SORCERY AND SUPER SCIENCE finds the overall sound of GIGAN (ガイガン) reaching its creative apex as the fragile production that melds the hyper-surreality of the ambience and the muddled ferocity of the technical death metal find the perfect unison which allows the hyper-frenetic sonic sadism to enter the realms of transcendental metal mediation especially when the seductive riffing repetitions offer the ultimate escape on the zenith of this ultimate GIGAN (ガイガン) album experience.

GIGAN Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes

Album · 2011 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The beauty of the pummeling technically infused extreme metal of GIGAN (ガイガン) is that despite the band’s best efforts to unleash every possible form of sonic brutality in the playbook, somehow they create an underpinning that keeps drawing me back to explore their music on a deeper level in an almost subliminal nature. Well, come back i do and by doing so i have found GIGAN (ガイガン) creeping up on my list of favorite über-extreme musical acts as each subsequent listen ratchets them up the list ever so slightly more. And despite the almost shoegazy effect of juggling the tech death metal elements with grindcore, progressive rock and dark space ambience that hypnotize as well as bombastically lambaste, GIGAN (ガイガン) prove they have the musical hook equivalents of the arch-enemy of Godzilla in the movie that was the first foe to inflict damage on our favorite walking lumpy lizard only the tortuous assault is tantamount to a sado-masochistic romp into the sonic assault world of this power trio from Tampa, FL, yeah the cradle of US death metal.

It took three years but the triumvirate power force of Eric Hersemann on bass, guitar, synthesizer, theremin, xylophone and newbies John Collett on growling death vocals with Kesava Doane as one of metal’s most technically skilled drummers rivaling the likes of Behemoth and Nile, return with a newly formed band that carried on mainman Hersemann’s tortuous metal antics and upgraded in pretty much every way while retaining the same identifiable features that were unleashed all the way back on 2007’s “The Footsteps Of GIGAN (ガイガン) EP.” The second album QUASI-HALLUCINOGENIC SONIC LANDSCAPES continues the sonic bombast and angular dissonance and takes the journey even further into uncharted GIGAN (ガイガン) territories.

While the monster in the movies was clearly land bound, this band of the same name is clearly aiming for the stars with their spaced out surreality as evident in their multi-syllabic song titles in the form of “Mountains Perched Like Beasts Awaiting the Attack,” “ Suspended in Cubes of Torment,” “The Raven and the Crow,” “In the Tentacled Grasp of a Buried Behemoth”, “Transmogrification Into Bio-Luminoid,” “Skeletons of Steel, Timber and Blackened Granite,” “Vespelmadeen Terror” and "Fathomless Echoes of Eternity's Imagination”

While the metal approaches would take a turn on the next album “Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery and Super Science,” the underlying musical approach on QUASI remains the same. GIGAN (ガイガン) dishes out the expected pummeling brutality which is based on old school death metal conformity but expedites the onion effect with layers of realities that have a hierarchical level. While the brutal death metal attacks clearly takes precedence with their sonic supremacy, it seems that the underlying psychedelic suaveness of the theremin, synthesizers and atmospheric backdrop that only emerge in brief interludes between tracks and pauses within. The tension that is created between the utterly chilled and the bombastically frenetic is a very strange tension indeed much like eating fried ice cream in a vacuum packed anti-gravity chamber.

GIGAN (ガイガン) is certainly a tough nut to crack and only the most ambitious who crave the most ruthless metal assaults married with the angular avant-garde prog and nerdy space oriented sci-fi themes laid out in paramount elixir will dig this, because of the fact that this music is laced with avant-prog sensibilities and exhibited in full tech death metal regalia. The psychedelic accoutrements are displayed in not only the ambient backdrops between tracks but also in some of the extraordinarily weird guitar riffs that occur in the higher registers with iterating almost robotic whizzing up and down the scales somewhat reminding me of math metal wizards like Psyopus or Behold…. The Arctopus. Did i mention the drumming? Fucking phenomenal. My arms hurt just listening to this shit. Solid as a fucking rock. GIGAN (ガイガン)!!!!

AUGURY Illusive Golden Age

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
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adg211288
It's been a long road for the Canadian technical death metal act Augury to reach their third album, Illusive Golden Age (2018). Band members have come, gone and come back again and nine years have passed them by since the release of Fragmentary Evidence (2009), which itself took five years since their debut album Concealed (2004). The band was formed in 2002 and has never been outright inactive, but three albums in sixteen years isn't the most consistent showing. Augury is forgiven for this of course due to how bloody good those first two albums were. Augury is, as far as this humble reviewer is concerned, the best death metal act to have ever existed. Concealed is the main reason for that belief, but Fragmentary Evidence also goes a long way to strengthen it. Still, making their fans wait almost a whole decade for this follow-up can't have kept them in everyone's good graces. It's been so long that now that the album actually has dropped many may have even forgotten that these guys were in fact still around and who can blame them? But the third Augury album is here now and it's time to find out if it was worth the wait.

Hell. Fucking. Yes. Yes it was.

Illusive Golden Age has the sound of an album that is both familiar if you've heard Augury's earlier work but also with a bit of a different spin on it. The more atmospheric sections of music that they like to use have seen a reduction here compared to Fragmentary Evidence, as have the clean singing vocals from frontman Patrick Loisel, who main sticks to mixing his deep growling and higher pitched screams. His clean voice is still used but don't expect a track like the previous album's Sovereigns Unknown to show up during Illusive Golden Age. After nine years away Augury seem to have made a statement that they're all about the death metal. I'm not sure that anyone ever doubted that about them as they've always had a heavy sound and Loisel's deeper growls have always been brutal as hell, but that's the best description of how this album feels compared to their previous one that I can come up with.

That's not to say that their sound has become lesser by reducing these elements of variation. After all they are still there being used to effect when needed and the level of technical skill on display seems to be higher than ever, if that was even possible, including the audible fretless bass work from Dominic 'Forest' Lapointe. This is so noticeable it's like the bass is being used as the lead instrument. Not to sell what may be some of the best and most intricate technical death metal guitar work ever recorded short here, but fretless bass guitar works so damn well in this genre that it's near impossible not to focus on it as the band's defining feature. Augury and by extension Lapointe's ventures with similar band Beyond Creation have always done this well and it really does feel like he gets to share the centre stage with the two guitarists, Loisel and Mathieu Marcotte. That's very rare for a bass player and for me it's what really makes Augury more than simply technical, but also progressive.

Due to how technical and progressive their music is calling this album straight-forward seems like the start of a bad joke, but the simple fact that matter is that Illusive Golden Age is undeniably a bit less unusual in terms of its song-writing direction, especially if you're comparing it to the often weird Concealed (which for me remains their best album) or the more atmospheric Fragmentary Evidence. I think maybe stripped back would be a more appropriate way to describe it in relation to their previous, but Illusive Golden Age can only be called generic at your own peril. Augury's ability to write coherent and mostly unelongated songs while still being so technical with their riffs should quickly squash any such thoughts you might be having about this release. They did not make their comeback as just another generic tech death act by any means. They've made their comeback with an album that still sounds distinctly like an Augury album that has its own identity from their previous two. I don't know about you readers, but I'll take it.

I haven't mentioned any specific songs from Illusive Golden Age yet and that's because of the eight it's difficult to single out any particular one and then convincingly justify why that one is better. It can't be done. At a total running time of 44:20 Illusive Golden Age is pretty easy to take in during a single listen and let it all in as a singular experience. I will say that Augury made a good choice in Mater Dolorosa as the first song released to promote the album as it is a great one for getting a feel of exactly what to expect from the album. I didn't personally have any doubts that Augury would deliver when they eventually managed to get a third album out, but this song certainly sealed the deal on a CD pre-order from me. Of course there was little doubt that I'd have bought it anyway, but that song was enough to know that I need this in my hands as soon as possible. This is the death metal album to beat in 2018. I have little faith that anyone will come close to what Augury achieved here though. The long wait is forgiven...though try not to leave it another nine years next time lads.

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