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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4.41 | 146 ratings
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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
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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
4.31 | 98 ratings
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
GORGUTS
4.42 | 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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NILE Annihilation of the Wicked Album Cover Annihilation of the Wicked
NILE
4.22 | 38 ratings
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AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence Album Cover Fragmentary Evidence
AUGURY
4.30 | 17 ratings
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technical death metal Music Reviews

DE PROFUNDIS The Blinding Light of Faith

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
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Kev Rowland
Over the course of the last decade De Profundis have built themselves an enviable reputation for delivering music of staggering power and breathtaking skill, both in the studio and on the stage. Although many think of them as a technical death metal band, I actually believe that they would be better stated to be extreme prog metal as they continue to transcend any particular genre, using one form as a base and then going wherever they wish. Earlier this year they released their fifth full-length album, ‘The Blinding Light of Faith’, through Transcending Obscurity Records and they have now signed a deal with Lusitanian Music to release the album as a limited vinyl edition. This allows the listener to study in detail the intricate, nightmarish album artwork created by Alex Tartsus (Sinister, Depravity etc.) while the band’s new logo, also stands out far more than in would in the smaller CD version.

The band have been known to be influenced by doom in the past, and it does point its nose in at different points during the album, but what makes this such a delight is the sheer refusal to conform to any particular pre-conceived ideas. There are times when this is out and out technical death, others when it is almost power metal in its approach, but it is consistently bending and melding, creating something which is always powerful and dynamic, but twisting into different directions so that no-one can work out where and how it is going to end. I find the production really interesting as well, as in many ways it exaggerates the melodic power of the music, with a bass line that is often found to be wandering along creating a sub-melody without the level of attack that one may expect from this form of music.

Incredibly detailed and layered, this is an incredibly complex album which listeners will gain more from each and every time it is played. It is hard to imagine an more imaginative death metal album being released by anyone this year.

LYKATHEA AFLAME Elvenefris

Album · 2000 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
LYKATHEA AFLAME is, or was actually, one of those many artsy tech death bands that seems to cause derision in the metal community. On the one hand you have the metal purists who find any tinkering with the metal basics of brutal, distorted essentials that separate the genre from the greater rock universe will taint the defining musical “aesthetics” and wish to install a eugenics program to keep metal from “breeding” with other musical genres. And then you have those who love the idea of a brutal tech death band that has the gall to follow in the shoes of avant-gardists like Mr Bungle by adding completely opposing musical moods and styles to the frenetic bantering of the head banging bombast which LYKATHEA AFLAME does in abundance. And of course, you have many who fall somewhere in between.

This band came from the Czech Republic and released this one well known, well loved as well as well hated album after they morphed from their previous incarnation as Appalling Spawn. While in A.S. they had already begun the process of expanding their horizons beyond the Cryptosy meets Nile death metal paradigm, on their sole LYKATHEA AFLAME release ELVENEFRIS, they really let the dog off the leash and like a randy slut at a frat party, mixes company with more styles of music than a brothel sees when a navy ship docks in Bangkok. The result is a blissful journey for the aforementioned artistic types and a wellspring of irritation for the purists who cannot comprehend the massive effort that went into this one.

ELVENEFRIS is a long beast to say the least, so it requires a major commitment to sit through this one but for any open minded tech death metalheads out there, this is on the essential listening list as it randomly drifts at hyperactive speed through a plethora of genres that meet and greet the brutal Cryptosy inspired blastbeat drumming, Nile inspired compositional drive (think Egyptian themes and thundering epic heavy metal melodies that intertwine with the chaotic death metal riffs) and a seemingly random chaotic romp through the tech death universe. What sets LYKATHEA AFLAME apart from almost every other extreme metal band of the day was that they were equally at home with long drifting ebbs and flows that delved in post-metal, classic 80s heavy metal and even metalcore, Pagan black folk metal and of course progressively infused compositional efforsts.

While bantering death growls and orotund pyroclastic aggression is the norm, LYKATHEA AFLAME provide tender moments of melodic folky sections with clean and “properly” sung vocals as well as pacifying new age passages, the longest which ends this sprawling repertoire of just over 72 minutes. It’s fair to say that ELVENEFRIS started a trend in the extreme metal world that allowed bands like Between The Buried And Me, Augury, Unexpect and others to radically expand the parameters of what was acceptable within the confines of a death metal listening experience. As with any form of extreme music ranging from punk and industrial to metal, there are those who staunchly resist such artistic liberties and others who wholeheartedly embrace it. Personally i straddle both lines of thought. I love the pure unadulterated styles of death metal but when done right, an artsy mind-blowing mix of genres is exactly what scratches that itch.

It occurred to me that the type of musical delivery that artists like LYKATHEA AFLAME offer comes from a form of musical thought. As a musician i have found my own inner soundtrack operates much like the music presented on ELVENEFRIS, that being a seemingly random parade of riffing variations decorated with various dynamic and tempo shifts that seem to drift in and out of whatever background music of the moment happens to be. Think of this sort of thought process as having a continuous spectrum of counterpoints churning in our heads where metal, post-rock, circus clown music or whatever just sort of emerges as the dominate format at any given moment. It’s sort of like a pipeline to that invisible world where creativity comes from and while that is usually the first step for an artist in crafting their works, LYKATHEA AFLAME seemed to find it adequate to utilize these random inspirations into a freeform explosive callithump.

This is very much tantamount to what some musical savants can conjure up as they can effortlessly transcribe a Mozart piece to sound like a Dixieland jazz number on the spot. So too does this occur for a select few musical minds who seem to think in music, however very few artists record their music in this astroplane sort of style. Virtuosos like Steve Vai have had tracks that utilize this process as well as other avant-garde metal artists like Maudlin Of The Well, but in the grimy pits of the extreme death metal world, this sort of thing doesn’t emerge too often since death metal by its very nature is more of a hellish beast that is firmly based on a set of unspoken rules. LYKATHEA AFLAME was paramount in taking this underground musical world into the ethereal dream state and channel the results into what would emerge as ELVENEFRIS.

Many consider ELVENEFRIS to be a masterpiece while others a complete piece of trash. Having the same sort of musical loves of never-ending musical variations and genre bending, i have to say that i fall in the camp of loving this album however at the same time, my inner critic emerges to also agree that this is by far an imperfect album. Firstly, it’s way too long and some of the meandering in certain sections, especially the lengthy post-rock and ambient parts can be way too long and little editing would’ve made this much stronger. Both post-rock and ambient can be fine in their own realms but the contrast here seems awkward and not planned out as how to integrate it into the overall mood swings of the album. As many others have stated, the ubiquitous snare drum bombast provides a rather generic percussive drive throughout the album’s run. More percussive variation would’ve gone a long way.

If only the other elements of the music were as diverse as the need for an incessant tempo change and addition of changing subdued elements ELVENEFRIST could’ve been a much better album. LYKATHEA AFLAME should have developed into a true artistic powerhouse had they recorded another album or two but even taken as is, ELVENEFRIS is a powerfully unique technical death metal experience that more often than not delivers the goods of a true extreme avant-garde maelstrom of metal madness. On the plus side, the album balances melody with dissonance quite successfully and never relies on any trick or trinket within the metal passages for too long. While not perfect in my mind, LYKATHEA AFLAME, like many bands that have emerged from Eastern Europe delivered a strong album that offered a completely new way to experience the perpetually expanding world of the death metal universe and despite the incessant complaints of the wimpy non-metal parts, this is a brutal death metal beast of an album to be reckoned with.

ORIGIN Antithesis

Album · 2008 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Antithesis" is the 4th full-length studio album by US death metal act Origin. The album was released through Relapse Records in April 2008. It´s the successor to "Echoes of Decimation" from 2005 and features a couple of lineup changes since the predecessor. Guitarist Clint Appelhanz has been replaced by Jeremy Turner and drummer James King has been replaced by a John Longstreth. Both replacements returning after not having been part of the band for a couple of years.

The music on the album is predominantly ultra fast and blasting technical death metal. There are some slower and crushingly heavy mid-paced parts on the album too, but they are few (some sections from the 9:32 miutes long title track, which closes the album, could be mentioned). The vocals are deep unintelligible growls and higher pitched aggressive screaming. To my ears especially the growling vocals are a bit monotone and I miss some aggression in that vocal approach so it´s nice when the band decide to put in a few higher pitched screams for variation.

My slight issue with the growling vocals aside "Antithesis" is overall a very impressive album. The riffs are played with clinical precision and technical skill that´s beyond what you´ll usually hear in an already very technical sub genre of death metal. There is no doubt that Origin are one of the fastest playing and most innovative acts when it comes to brutal technical death metal. I´ve mentioned the riffs but the drums are also supernaturally fast played and delivered with precision that´s admirable. The whole thing is a bit cold and clinical but the playing style suits the sci-fi themed lyrics and image of the band.

The sound production (which is otherwise professional and generally well sounding) unfortunately lacks a bit of dynamic and the tracks have a tendency to sound a bit too much the same as a consequence of that. Especially the more "regular" blasting parts on the tracks sound a bit too similar in style. It´s definitely not an easy listening experience, but given enough spins the tracks begin to be easier to tell apart. Variation is not the strength of the album though.

Despite a few issues "Antithesis" is still close to the premier league of brutal techncial death metal albums. So while I still think the band could focus a bit more on variation instead of monotone brutality, the album deserves a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating. When Origin chose to lower the pace or play more rhythmically varied parts they shine and memorable moments even occur in the chaos of ultra fast technical riffing, growling vocals, and blasting drums (tracks like "The Aftermath", "Wrath of Vishnu" and the title track stand out as some of the highlights). I hope the band will develop that part of their sound further on subsequent releases. With a bit more variation in the songwriting department there is no limit to how great this band can become. They certainly have the technical skills and creativity to pull it off.

AUGURY Illusive Golden Age

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The tech death metal march has been incessant since the floodgates opened with such bands as Gorguts reaching such milestones as 1998’s now classic “Obscura” which paved the way for bands to genetically splice the DNA of death metal and modify it with disparate strains of progressive rock ranging from the vast fields of jazz-fusion to the unearthly vaults of avant-prog. While Tampa may have had its heyday as the spawning ground for the morbid fecundity of old school death metal, the frigid French speaking lands of Quebec have proven to have an equal pull for a new strain of the more abstract realms of technically infused death metal not only beginning with Cryptospy and Gorguts but branching out into the bizarre metal multiverses of Quo Vadis, Martyr, Beyond Creation and most weirdly of all Unexpect, JUST to name a few ;)

Also catching the tech death metal army that rampaged throughout the naughts came the Montreal based AUGURY who successfully awed and bedazzled an increasingly finicky metal audience whose standards had been raised significantly since the 90s. “Concealed” displayed a modern mature form of tech death infusion with elements of jazzy black and folk metal with heavy doses of acoustic spaced out ambience alongside the pacifying effect of Arianne Fleury’s feminine diva charming beauty that tamed the rampaging brutality of the beast. Come 2009, a full five years of perfecting their craft and AUGURY had attained a technical prowess rarely matched in the big boyz club of such technical wizardry. “Fragmentary Evidence” cemented the band as one of tech death’s major players and despite the loss of Fleury managed to wield their jazzified battle axe for an unprecedented second coming.

As the years slithered by with one passage around the sun after another yielding an ever increasing supply of technically gifted musical maestros battening down the hatches and conjuring up their own sonic storms of dissonant din, AUGURY was nowhere to be found and with the exit of half the band, namely bassist Dominic Lapointe and drummer Antoine Baril, it would’ve been a no brainer that AUGURY were a two strike assault team and then down for the count. In the metal universe modernity, nine years seems like a lifetime and as new bands like Ulcerate, Portal, Obscura, Gigan and Gorod gaining tech death god status, every passing year AUGURY was becoming more of a distant memory rather than a glimmering hope of resurrection. Lo and behold and nearly a decade later, not only have the two departed members rejoined this caustic cast but the long anticipated third album has finally arisen from seemingly nowhere.

Despite the nine year gap, ILLUSIVE GOLDEN AGE surprisingly picks up exactly where “Fragmentary Evidence” left off which is both its boon and bane depending on what one’s expectations were set on. The boon is that AUGURY crank out eight incredibly complex distorted and dissonant demons of death metal like they never left the scene. Each member has retained his respective maestrohood prowess with Patrick Loisel’s vocal shapeshifting skills losing none of the intensity heard all the way back in 2004. Likewise Marcotte, Lapointe and Baril haven’t lost their technical chops in the slightest with the production and mixing job completely up to snuff with the highest of AUGURY standards that set the bar so high from the getgo. The bane is that after nearly a decade these guys have lost a lot of their compositional magic making mojo as the majority of the tracks lack those distinguishing features so creatively laid out on the first two albums. Add to the fact that this album seems a little stuck in the 2010 timeline and hasn’t taken into account the modern realities that surround the bubble that it seems to have been created in. Could it be this was indeed created back then and only recently finished?

All that being said, ILLUSIVE GOLDEN AGE still cranks out some mighty fine tech death although at this point in the game feels a little stagnant. Woefully missing are those beautiful non-metal passages that ceded into the blistering brutal chops that allowed the band to craft an inkling of a melody that the musicians could tightrope walk upon throughout a track’s running time. After nine long years it would seem like these guys could’ve upped their game and continued their role as the compass of creativity in a sub-genera that can easily grow stale when the musicians get too much into their heads and sever the sonic thread that binds them to their audience. While it’s hard to give such a decently performed album a bad rating, at the same time the lack of the aforementioned elements only make me want to revisit the first two albums that have that extra magic layer of attraction as intangible as it may seem. While not a complete waste of time ILLUSIVE GOLDEN AGE seems to have missed its target and remains, well… ILLUSIVE.

AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence

Album · 2009 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
As with many perfectionist technically oriented bands, many years can pass between albums and such is the case with Montreal, Quebec based AUGURY that took five trips around the sun before releasing their much anticipated sophomore FRAGMENTARY EVIDENCE after taking the tech death metal by storm in 2004 with their lauded debut “Concealed.” In that five year period, amazingly the lineup of musicians remained the same however the band lost one of their most defining features with that being the additional operatic diva charm of Arianne Fleury who graced “Concealed” with a stabilizing contrast to the unbridled aggression of the technical death metal assaults that constituted the majority of the album’s near one hour length.

Despite the loss of Fleury, there are many guest vocalists on FRAGMENTARY EVIDENCE that attempt to fill the void although not quite as successfully i may add. As a matter of fact five out of the nine tracks have guest vocalists which include Sven de Caluwé (Aborted, System Divide), Youri Raymond (Cryptosy, Unhuman), Sébastien Croteau (Necrotic Mutation), Filip Ivanovic (Agony), Eric Fiset (Obscene Crisis, Nervous Impulse) and fellow Montreal residents SyriaK and Leilindel from Unexpect. Since the feminine charm of Leilindel is limited to a mere pair of tracks, FRAGMENTARY EVIDENCE is a much more testosterone driven maelstrom of frenetic energy without the many pacifying moments that allowed some cooling down periods.

Overall album #2 is a lot more technical in nature with the progressive wankery turned up several notches with lots of jazz-fusion in the works. Many of the opening intros and sudden clean guitar passages display a very fusionistic approach in chord progressions, time signature chops and advanced atonal harmonics. The closing and longest track on the album “Oversee The Rebirth” is perhaps one of the finest moments in technical death metal-jazz fusion i’ve ever heard with some of the swankiest jazzified guitar techniques recorded which extends the variations on the theme for a full satisfying eleven minute stretch. The track also exhibits the cleaner almost James Hatfield type of vocals set in folk metal style that appeared abundantly on “Concealed” but utilized sparingly on FRAGMENTARY EVIDENCE.

While more adventurous in tech death metal assaults that pummel and bombast the senses with less downtime for deep breaths, FRAGMENTARY EVIDENCE is a tech death metal beast finding the musicians in fine form and more technically developed in the five year period since “Concealed.” The guitar chops remind me a lot of Necrophagist with brutal punishing riffs that implement the occasional neoclassical virtuosic sweep. Also mentionable is the extraordinary bass work of Dominic Lapointe whose finger dancing skills display uncanny mastery of one of the most physically demanding instruments in a metal band, the bass guitar. Likewise for Étienne Gallo’s inhumanly percussive juggling drum abuse. Damn, how many stick were sacrificed to record this?

FRAGMENTARY EVIDENCE is a superb followup to “Concealed” in every way but one. Without Fleury’s feminine spell casting charm, the pacifying folk inspired acoustic elements present on “Concealed” are sadly missed on this one and in the process has lost the atmospheric robustness. This album is just simply a much more aggressive beast and while i do not dislike that for a second, it seems that while the debut was perfectly balanced, this one seems like a slightly lower calibre in its wake. However, in its stead there are plenty of technical death metal chops to salivate over with the superb production and mixing allowing for a near perfect modern tech death listening experience. It also seems the more diverse tracks are tacked onto the end and they could’ve been redistributed in a better way but make no doubts about it. FRAGMENTARY EVIDENCE displays exactly what a modern 21st century extreme metal album should sound like and while not perfect delivers many of the goods.

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