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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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
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OBSCURA Omnivium Album Cover Omnivium
OBSCURA
4.31 | 32 ratings
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BEYOND CREATION The Aura Album Cover The Aura
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4.42 | 14 ratings
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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
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4.24 | 60 ratings
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AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence Album Cover Fragmentary Evidence
AUGURY
4.31 | 18 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

GOROD A Perfect Absolution

Album · 2012 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
In the beginning, the Bordeux, France based Goregasm evolved into present day GOROD and released a trilogy of high quality technical death metal that took a cue from the German Necrophagist only adding a plethora of new progressive rock twists and turns which created an insanely wild ride that i personally call zigzag metal. While starting out as a combo pack of resolute death metal with melodic neoclassical dual harmonizing guitars and frenetic percussive and rhythmic drive with the standard souless death growls from beneath the grave, GOROD conjured up some of the most complex and challenging metal that could be heard and easily stood up in quality and intensity with contemporaries Obscura, Decapitated and Martyr just to name a few, however by the time the band got to the third album “Process Of A New Decline,” they seemed to be losing their melodic touches and opting for more dizzying instrumental gymnastics on the sonic playing ground where technical wizardry was winning out.

That’s not a bad thing mind you, especially for those of us who dig that sorta thing, however it is always preferable to find some sort of balance between the extremes for contrast’s sake and that’s exactly what GOROD pulled off on their fourth album A PERFECT ABSOLUTION. Sticking to the 3-year plan between albums, this one follows suit but during the time in between a new lineup took place and found vocalist Guillaume Martinot being traded in for newbie Julien Dreyes and guitarist Arnaud Pontaco finding a replacement in Nicolas Alberny. On A PERFECT ABSOLUTION, this tech death quintet with an extra guest list of four musicians on select tracks took the best of what came before and added all kinds of new experimental features all the while keeping the brutal time signature rich guitar riffs in tack with insane percussion drive and frenetic death growls and best of all the band revived the more melodic neoclassical underpinnings of their origins which added a little beauty to the brutal beast.

A PERFECT ABSOLUTION shows the band in full spitfire mode having not lost an iota of its feisty balls to the wall tech death angst. In fact, if anything someone turned up the pilot light and made the insane freneticism even louder, faster and more technically inclined however what REALLY makes this one stand out amongst the pack is how deliciously diverse the tracks are and how the band manage stitch in so many disparate fusional possibilities. The album starts off with the short instrumental “The Call To Redemption” which is a classical war march that ushers in not only the soundtrack to a impending battle scene of some sort but gives a nod to the complex melodic underpinnings of the entire album no matter how abstract and brutally angular the sonic bantering becomes. The track quickly yields to the high octane explosive “Birds Of Sulphur” which borrows a groove or two from the classic Pantera style but takes it to the powers of ten. Despite the dueling axe masters only coexisting for a very short time, Pascal and Alberny bedazzle with twin tech harmonizing that’s literally insane!

While the beginning of the album tends to stick to the band’s death metal riffs with tracks like “Sailing Into Earth” sounding like a geeked out tech version of something Behemoth cranked out on albums like “Demigod,” other tracks deviate from that recipe. For example, tracks like “Elements And Spirit” take on not only the tech death bombast but reprise the neoclassical dual shredding along with a funky grooved out bass that find little intermissions of clean vocals that tease with a classic Enslaved sort of prog metal but only play peek-a-boo before jumping back into the galloping wallops of the tech death guitar driven cacophony. “5000 At The Funeral” is something totally different for the band and adds a circus music touch in classical piano form with clean guitars and symphonic elements slowly ratcheting a demented sort of gypsy jazz sound that morphs into a satisfying groove thrash based riffing pattern. Augmented with whispered vocals and other deviations from the status quo, Deyres finds no problem displaying his own stylistic approaches.

“Carved In The Wind” perhaps displays the most daring angularity of the album with ridiculous convoluted riffing that somehow still manages to eke out a melodic hook whereas the most experimental track “Varangian Paradise” takes a wild ride on the funky side of life with an almost 70s sounding bass line set to death metal ushers in the heavy driven guitar heft before jumping into Latin influenced rhythmic drives to create a frenetic jazz-fusion along with a stellar Bumblefoot inspired torturous display of guitar solo virtuosity complete with progressive time sig tugs that are quite dizzying but oh so satisfying for electric tech death metalheads such as myself. “Tribute Of Blood” ends the album with yet another display of guitar antics and trad death metal sounds along with some killer drowned out vocals trying to emerge from the darkened din. GOROD keeps the album below the forty minute mark which suits this music perfectly because it’s an intense ride both technically and aggressively to the max. An exhausting ride indeed reserved for only the most ambitious headbangers but well worth the time it takes to decipher this bout with musical insanity on steroids. Perhaps my favorite GOROD album.

GOROD Process of a New Decline

Album · 2009 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
After dropping the Gorgasm moniker and becoming GOROD, this French band from Bordeaux released two albums on the Willowtip label. First a re-release from their Gorgasm days on the debut “Neurotripsticks” in 2005 and then the first bona fide new material as GOROD with “Leading Vision” the following year. The band spent a couple years crafting new material for the third album PROCESS OF A NEW DECLINE but then in 2008 drummer Sandrine Bourguignon left the band and was replaced by Samuel Santiago formerly of Next On The List and Zubrowska. This album would also be the last for vocalist Guillaume Martinot and guitarist Arnaud Pontaco.

Following the tech death metal template of Necrophagist that the band had implemented on their previous two albums, GOROD continues the chaotic mix of labyrinthine compositional styles decorated with various strains of metal including the business as usual neoclassical soloing, groove thrash chugs and the tech deathy frenetic time signature guitar riffs and jazzy drumming on steroids. While the first two albums provided some sort of melodic grounding that while meandering from one hook to another, PROCESS OF A NEW DECLINE tends to be more scattered and harder to latch onto. While the melodic hooks have certainly not been discarded, the tracks seem a tad less predictable as the band sort of zigzags through various moods and technical bombast.

While the album as a whole can seem like a display in technical futility run amok with crushing frenetic speedy riffs accompanied by pummeling blastbeats, fretless bass meltdowns and the expected emotionless death growls, the tracks redeem themselves in unexpected ways as the band drops the metal charade all together and displays various underlying influential drives whether it be Django Reinhardt gypsy swing, classically infused guitar or melodic rock elements that the band plays technical leapfrog with. The album is certainly a more difficult listen than the first two albums and i initially found the album to be an inferior third offering in comparison however the album has its addictive features as well. It’s hard to call this a song oriented album. This is geeky progressive tech death metal through and through and the band’s aim is to bedazzle and cast a spell of OMG!!!!

While perhaps not as cohesive as classic artists like Death or Atheist or as surreal as Gorguts or Portal, GOROD nevertheless cranks out some of the highest quality musical acrobatics and if this is something you crave with unrelenting aggressive performances then PROCESS OF A NEW DECLINE delivers the goods in absolutely every way. This is the kind of death metal where you actually expect it to sound totally off-kilter and unpredictable but yet somehow skirts by on some sort of subliminal flow. GOROD have become one of France’s top tech death acts and although some consider this to be one of the weaker offerings as i once did, i recommend just spending a little more time with it until you can grasp it on its own terms without the influential predilections of what came before and it more than stands up on its own two feet.

ORIGIN Entity

Album · 2011 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Entity" is the 5th full-length studio album by US death metal act Origin. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in June 2011. It´s the successor to "Antithesis" from 2008. The band have gone from being a five-piece on "Antithesis (2008)" to a trio lineup on "Entity". Lead vocalist James Lee has left Origin and the lead vocals are now shared by guitarist Paul Ryan and bassist Mike Flores. Guitarist Jeremy Turner has also left, but hasn´t been replaced here, so "Entity" was recorded by the three-piece lineup Paul Ryan (vocals, guitars), Mike Flores (vocals, bass), and John Longstreth (drums).

The lineup changes doesn´t really affect Origin´s brutal technical death metal core sound. We´re still treated to über technical and brutal death metal of the highest class. There´s been a positive development in the songwriting department though. "Entity" is without competition the most varied and memorable release up until then by Origin. While their previous releases had a tendency to appear one-dimensional after just a few tracks, it seems that Origin have focused a lot of their efforts on the songwriting this time around as opposed to the earlier releases where the focus always seemed to be on the technical playing first and memorable songwriting second. "Antithesis" did show a more diverse approach to the band´s technical brutal death metal style but still lacked the final finesse in the songwriting to push it from great to excellent. While "Entity" isn´t a flawless release either, I´d say Origin have taken one more step in the right direction with this release.

While the tracks are still brutal as hell with both deep growling and higher pitched screaming vocals on top, the band have incorporated a lot of tempo changes, heavier mid-paced grooves, some (a few) melodic themes (check out the melodic solo that closes "Conceiving Death") and a bit of experimentation with ideas not regularly heard on brutal death metal releases. The latter especially appear on the track "Committed" which features a section that can be described as experimental alternative extreme metal. One of the tracks where the heavy mid-paced groove is most successfully incorporated is on "Saliga" and on "Swarm" too. The 6:52 minutes long "Saliga" is definitely one of the highlights of the album. The other lengthy track on the album "Consequence of Solution", the powerful "Swarm", and "Conceiving Death" are highlights too, while some of the shorter tracks almost pass by so quick that you´ll never know what hit you. 7 out of 11 tracks are shorter than 3 minutes and most of those 7 tracks are closer to the 2 minute mark than the 3 minute ditto.

The musicianship is outstanding. Technical precision drumming, razor sharp and fast paced riffing, shredding fretboard work, and rythmic variation are what you´ll get when listening to "Entity". If I have to point out a weak link it would be the vocals which are pretty standard for the genre. "Entity" could definitely have been even more interesting with a more unique sounding vocalist. It shouldn´t be interpreted as if the vocals aren´t well performed or doesn´t sound great, but a more distinct sounding vocalist would just have made the listening experience even more interesting. So while I still feel there is room for improvement, I think Origin have created a high quality album in "Entity". Definitely one of the death metal highlights of the year. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

PIAH MATER The Wandering Daughter

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
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Kev Rowland
Brazilian-based progressive death metal outfit Piah Mater was formed in 2010 by guitarists Luiz Felipe Netto and Igor Meira, as an outlet for their personal approach to sombre melodies, high-energy riffs and unconventional song structures. 2014 saw the release of their debut album ‘Memories of Inexistence’, since when they have brought drummer Kalki Avatara onboard, and they are now releasing their second album. These guys move between some progressive and melodic rock elements, as well as going full into death and even atmospheric black metal. There are times when the vocals are melodic and softly sung, others when they have been influenced more by Dio, and then others where they are incredibly gruff and unintelligible.

Now, I like my metal to be complex, and there is no doubt that these guys really know what they are doing, with some incredibly complex passages. The issue here is that they are so good at the multiple different styles on show, that it actually detracts from the music as a whole. They jump around from one style to another within the same song, multiple times, and it becomes quite hard to listen t. It is undoubtedly clever, and there is no doubting their skills, but there are times when “less is more” and I know I didn’t enjoy this album nearly as much as I would have done if there had been more focus on what they were doing.

Eclectic in many ways, I found this a really difficult album to get inside, and even playing it multiple times just got me more annoyed with it, and I just can’t warm to it at all which is a real shame as they certainly know what they are doing

ARSIS Visitant

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
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Kev Rowland
‘Visitant’, is the first new album from famed metal act Arsis in five years, and to show they mean business it was recorded, mixed and mastered at Audio Hammer Studio with producer Mark Lewis (Whitechapel, Devildriver, Cannibal Corpse). It features cover artwork and layout from Mark Riddick (Arch Enemy, Morbid Angel, Varathron) and features guest appearances by Trevor Strand (The Black Dahlia Murder) and Malcolm Pugh (Inferi). The Virginia Beach-based quartet derived its name from the musical term "arsis and thesis", in which "arsis" refers to the unaccented part of a measure. The name's origin comes as no surprise, considering co-founder's James Malone's classical education in music (as well as providing guitar and vocals for Arsis, he is a skilled violinist and a composition major), which in turn adds a whole new layer to the way in which they sound. This is death metal that is righteously tinged with black and thrash influences, but is completely dedicated to expanding the reaches of melodicism and technicality in the genre.

Many people may point to the aggression of the twin guitars, the over the top vocals, or the drum attack as to why this band hit so hard, but for me the star of the sound is Noah Martin whose intricate bass playing pins everything together. There is a warmth to his sound, and he can be found providing either perfect support or counterpoint, working either with the drums or the guitars to ensure that each song is being taken into the stratosphere. Arsis commented on ‘Visitant’: "With a meticulous attention to detail and hooks, we feel as though we have created our most honest and dark record to date". Guitarist and vocalist James Malone elaborates: "I wanted to do something different with the lyrical themes for this album and it was just a natural move to incorporate a passion for horror into Visitant. As I was doing my part of the writing I tried to capture the tone and atmosphere of some of my favourite films (Silver Bullet, From Beyond, Prince Of Darkness). It was a very satisfying and fun album to write and I think it might be what fans consider a 'worthy follow-up' to ‘A Diamond For Disease’."

This, their sixth studio album, shows that Arsis have no intention at all of slowing down, and have created something that is taking melodic technical death metal into new areas, stretching the genre so that in some ways it is almost becoming mainstream, while still pushing the boundaries of acceptability. Well worth investigating.

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