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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technical death metal top albums

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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
DEATH
4.41 | 117 ratings
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DEATH Symbolic Album Cover Symbolic
DEATH
4.39 | 155 ratings
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
GORGUTS
4.43 | 24 ratings
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DEATH Individual Thought Patterns Album Cover Individual Thought Patterns
DEATH
4.29 | 105 ratings
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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.29 | 66 ratings
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BEYOND CREATION The Aura Album Cover The Aura
BEYOND CREATION
4.41 | 17 ratings
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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
NILE
4.40 | 16 ratings
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CRYPTOPSY None So Vile Album Cover None So Vile
CRYPTOPSY
4.32 | 29 ratings
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AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence Album Cover Fragmentary Evidence
AUGURY
4.35 | 20 ratings
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NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest Album Cover Those Whom the Gods Detest
NILE
4.25 | 33 ratings
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OBSCURA Omnivium Album Cover Omnivium
OBSCURA
4.23 | 34 ratings
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ATHEIST Elements Album Cover Elements
ATHEIST
4.19 | 52 ratings
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technical death metal Music Reviews

ULCERATE Stare into Death and Be Still

Album · 2020 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Stare into Death and Be Still" is the 6th full-length studio album by New Zealand death metal act Ulcerate. The album was released through Debemur Morti Productions in April 2020. It´s the successor to "Shrines of Paralysis" from 2016 and features the exact same trio lineup who recorded the predecessor.

Two words and one influence have always been among the descriptors of Ulcerate and that´s inaccessible, dissonant, and Gorguts. While Ulcerate have managed to stay relevant and continue to release albums in the years since their inception in 2002, they haven´t strayed too far from their original formula or from their obvious Gorguts influence on any of their previous releases. What they have done though is develop their sound slowly but steadily from album to album, and adding more and more of a unique touch to their bleak and dissonant technical death metal style and that´s what has happened again on "Stare into Death and Be Still". One more step out of the shadow of Gorguts.

When that is said this is still strongly Gorguts influenced technical death metal, featuring dissonant twisted riffs and open chords, complex and challenging technical rhythm work, and some deep growling vocals, which this time around has become slightly more intelligible. I won´t remove the inaccessible label from my description of the music, but "Stare into Death and Be Still" is to date the most accessible release from Ulcerate and I hear more memorable and catchy moments here than before. The songwriting is more focused on those qualities and while this is still bleak and brutal music, it features a little less of the impenetrable darkness of some of the predecessors. It´s actually quite atmospheric at times and occasionally leans towards post-metal territory.

Ulcerate generally seem a little more interested in opening up their intriguing take on technical death metal to the listener, and it´s not done by compromising their integrity or the brutality of their music. It´s small details like a semi-melodic hook, an intelligible vocal phrase, or maybe a heavy groove, which is a bit more catchy and simple than usual. A good example is the title track, which is an incredibly creative composition, featuring many intriguing riffs and rhythms and an atmospheric middle section. But while it´s certainly a complex and challenging song, there are also some more simple features, which makes it at least occasionally accessible.

"Stare into Death and Be Still" features a crushingly brutal and heavy sound production, which is perfect for the material and helps the tracks to shine. This is an album for those who are interested in a different take on technical death metal. Forget about conventional power chord riffs, guitar solos, or regular drum patterns. When you cross the threshold and enter "Stare into Death and Be Still" you are in for an adventurous ride that´s sure to challenge the conventional ideas of what death metal should sound like. A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

ANATA Under a Stone With No Inscription

Album · 2004 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Under a Stone With No Inscription" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Anata. The album was released through Wicked World Records in January 2004. It´s the successor to "Dreams of Death and Dismay" from 2001. There´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as drummer Robert Petersson has been replaced by Conny Pettersson.

The material on "Under a Stone With No Inscription" is US influenced technical death metal. There are definitely a nod or two towards Morbid Angel here and there, although this is generally much more focused on technical playing and complex song structures than their more famous US influence. It´s quite challenging and highly energetic music, and I used to think the album featured a lot of needless technical noodling, but as I´ve given the album more spins over the years, it has won me over, and what I hear now is a lot of technical playing, but it´s technical playing which is a means to an end.

So there are a lot of strong tracks here (they take time to digest and they aren´t instantly memorable, but patience is rewarded), featuring a massive load of killer riffs, solos, and great technical drumming. The vocals are aggressive snarling growls, which suit the material perfectly, and to top it off "Under a Stone With No Inscription" also features a powerful, clear, and detailed sounding production, which further enhances the impact of the music on the listener. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

DJIN The Era of Destruction

Album · 2012 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
DJIN was formed in 2006 in the city of Medan which is located on the Western tip of Sumatra, Indonesia by guitarist David Salim who had an insatiable appetite for the most extreme and violent realms of the metal world citing influences from US and Canadian death metal bands such as Origin, Brain Drill, Beneath The Massacre and Anomalous as well as many others most of which featured groove-based rhythms along with erratic technical death metal bombast.

After a few lineup changes, by the time DJIN released its so far one and only album THE ERA OF DESTRUCTION, the cast included was Eric Critic on vocals, Salim on guitars, Nurdin Marja on drums and Chiko TM on bass. Although the band has only released the one near 26 minute album, DJIN has been active playing live gigs ever since with even more lineup changes (seems to be the absolute norm in this techy types of extreme metal.)

THE ERA OF DESTRUCTION may be succinct but still includes nine tracks most of which range from the 3 to 4 minute range. The incessantly bombastic and technical death metal rampage takes a few cues from grindcore brevity along with brutal death metal orotundity. While not exactly the most original album out there, DJIN nevertheless features extremely proficient musicians who absolutely nail the tech death sounds perfectly. With rampaging fast tempos and lightning fast technicalities, DJIN is in the top of the tech death league as far as motor skills are concerned.

Despite the maestro wizardry of the musicians on board though, THE ERA OF DESTRUCTION sounds like many other equally gifted bands who have mastered the tech death playbook but don’t offer more than doing just that however i’m a sucker for pummeling blastbeats, whizzing guitar solos racing at a million miles per second and a frenetic loose electrical wire performance of the vocalist. This is completely unhinged tech death at its most energetic and uncompromising and for that reason i do like this one a lot! If these guys could harness their own creative stamp on the genre, then they could be the next Nile and Indonesia is fertile with beautiful ethnic sounds to incorporate.

NILE Vile Nilotic Rites

Album · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Vile Nilotic Rites" is the 9th full-length studio album by US death metal act Nile. The album was released through Nuclear Blast in November 2019. It´s the successor to "What Should Not Be Unearthed" from 2015 and features a significant lineup change as lead vocalist/guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade has jumped ship. He has been replaced by Brian Kingsland (Enthean).

Stylistically it´s more or less business as usual. Brutal technical death metal with Ancient Egyptian/Middle East lyrical themes and melodies/atmospheres. As on every Nile release before this one the musicianship is through the roof. The tracks are so complex in structure and the riffs and rhythms so technically difficult to play, that it´s impossible not to drop your jaw several times while listening to "Vile Nilotic Rites". Funny enough we have now been spoiled for so many years and albums with the band´s incredible musicianship, that it by now feels like a matter of course, which is of course totally unfair to the performers, but that´s just what happens when you continue to deliver on such a high level for so many years. It unfortunately also has the consequence that expectations to any new Nile release are now sky high, and any deviation in quality or sound is noticed by the rabid fans. Nile fans are like the Dream Theater fans of death metal...

...which leads me to the lineup change on the lead vocalist spot. Overall Kingsland does a good job replacing Toler-Wade and the quality of the vocal performances from both Kingsland (intelligible growling vocals), Karl Sanders (deep unintelligible growling vocals), and Brad Parris (higher pitched screaming vocals) are high. But when that is said, replacing Toler-Wade one to one is nearly impossible. He is one of the most distinct sounding and powerful growling vocalists on the scene and the importance of his voice and commanding vocal style on Nile´s previous albums can not be underestimated. So for all the good intentions and skilled vocal performances on "Vile Nilotic Rites", the quality of the vocals, or maybe more correctly the uniqueness of the vocals, is lower here than on the last many albums by the band which featured Toler-Wade.

The instrumental part of the music is as intriguing and busy as ever. It´s powerful, brutal, and technically very well played death metal of the highest caliber. Nile are in the Premier League of death metal artists, and "Vile Nilotic Rites" does nothing to change that. The album features a powerful, brutal, and detailed sound production and upon conclusion it´s yet another Nile album reeking high class. I´m not sure I find it quite as interesting as "What Should Not Be Unearthed (2015)", but a 4 star (80%) rating is still deserved.

DISSIMULATED Exogenesis

Album · 2011 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
When it comes to many extreme metal bands, it seems they are going for the abstraction jugular with not only album titles but bands names in general. Take the word “dissimulate” for example. This is a rather infrequently used English word that means to conceal one’s intentions under a feigned appearance so if you take all the possible word variations of this word then you will get bands like Lithuania’s thrash metal bandDissimulation, the US deathcore Dissimulator and even a Crux Dissimulata from who the fuck knows where. Well here’s yet one more variation of the word, the US technical and progressive death metal band DISSIMULATED which comes from Brentwood, CA which sits equidistant between San Francisco and Stockton.

This powerhouse of primo noise makers formed in 2006 and had five members but by the time the band released its so far first and only album EXOGENESIS in 2011, the lineup was down to Taylor Elsasser (bass), Tim Head (drums, vocals) and Matt Mauro (vocals, guitar). EXOGENESIS (another abstract title that every nerdy sci-fi metal band seems to evoke) features six lengthy tracks that add up to just over 45 minutes. This is some seriously brutal technical death metal that ticks off the expect tech death attributes such as seriously wicked monstrous riffing, bass and drum abuse with time signature gymnastics but the band also mixes in softer passages that implement mellower guitars without distortion and clean vocal much like many progressive metal bands use.

The shortest track is “Cognitive Dissonance” at 5:55 and the longest is “Red Sky” at 9:00 and all the rest play somewhere in between. DISSIMULATED are seasoned musicians for sure as they play high speed brutal death metal riffs with explosive energy but are also masters at changing up the riffing styles as well as featuring dueling guttural growls in a call and response showdown. There are clean guitar parts that offer contrast and short segments of slow tempos that serve as a break to catch your breath. There are also occasional guitar solos but if i had to choose one musician that stands out it would have to be drummer Tim Head who performs outstandingly complex drumming antics that run the gamut from blastbeat death metal wankery to jazzified complexities. The fretless bass runs are also a pleasantry that sounds all the more awesome when allowed to shine without the guitar bombast.

EXOGENESIS is an excellent display of tech death magnificence that is high in quality when it comes to virtuoso performances however what DISSIMULATED fails to conjure up is that magic mojo that offers a sense of uniqueness as the band sounds like myriad other bands that have mastered these same techniques at a million miles per second. The one saving grace is that the progressive nature of the tracks allows a healthier diversity in the tracks than the average tech death band and while not completely lost in a generic haze, DISSIMULATED does rise enough to the occasion to at least make the album a compelling listen but for the most part sits nicely in the tech death crowds of the modern day. Personally i enjoy this one quite a bit. Influences include Periphery, David Maxim Micic, Animals as Leaders, The Contortionist, Circa Survive, Between the Buried and Me, Cynic, Disperse, Intervals.

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