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 | 144 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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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.37 | 58 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
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4.31 | 105 ratings
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DEATH Individual Thought Patterns Album Cover Individual Thought Patterns
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4.27 | 96 ratings
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
GORGUTS
4.34 | 23 ratings
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AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence Album Cover Fragmentary Evidence
AUGURY
4.37 | 15 ratings
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NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest Album Cover Those Whom the Gods Detest
NILE
4.26 | 30 ratings
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DEATH Human Album Cover Human
DEATH
4.19 | 96 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

NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest

Album · 2009 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Those Whom the Gods Detest" is the 6th full-length studio album by US death metal act Nile. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in November 2009. It´s the successor to "Ithyphallic" from 2007. "Those Whom the Gods Detest" is the third studio album in a row produced by Neil Kernon (Nevermore, Macabre...etc.) and sound production wise there are many similarities between the three albums (the drum production is handled by Eric Rutan on this one though). Neil Kernon seems to be the perfect producer to bring out the best in Nile´s rather complex, busy, and at times chaotic soundscape. The sound production on "Those Whom the Gods Detest" is powerful, brutal and professionally crafted. Raw yet clear. But not clean in a way that takes away power or brutality.

Stylistically the material on "Those Whom the Gods Detest" is brutal and technically well played death metal. There´s an epic atmosphere to the music and Nile as usual incorporate middle eastern scales/notes/themes in the music. The latter elements compliment the ancient Epypt lyrical themes perfectly and are some of the defining elements of the Nile sound. The 10 tracks on "Those Whom the Gods Detest" are all well composed, intriguing, and powerful enough to tilt an elephant. The tracks are also relatively varied and given some spins they begin to stand out from each other. That´s not necessarily an everyday thing when we´re talking brutal death metal artists and their releases but Nile are one of the few exceptions to the rule. They both play crushingly heavy parts, mid-paced death metal grooves, and insanely fast-paced blast beating. There´s nothing this band can´t do.

The vocals are deep brutal growling but they are actually intelligible to a certain extent, which is a major plus in my book. The commanding and aggressive fashion they delivered in, is not exactly a problem either. Lead vocalist/bassist/guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade are occasionally complimented by guitarist Karl Sanders who delivers some additional (and more unintelligible) growling vocals. The riffs those two conjure up are brutal, razor sharp, and rather sophisticated for the genre but it´s the drumming by George Kollias that put the icing on the cake. The man is a phenomena. You can argue that he plays his two triggered bass drums a bit too much but it´s hard to argue that he doesn´t play them well. He has a way of making the music move forward in a powerful and aggressive fashion yet with a sophistication that puts him in a class of his own. In addition to his playing on the faster paced tracks it´s interesting to listen to his playing on the crushingly heavy and slow "4th Arra of Dagon" which perfectly showcases what he is also capable of when the pace is lowered.

Upon conclusion, Nile have with "Those Whom the Gods Detest" once again proven who are the kings of brutal technical death metal. Releasing several high quality death metal albums in a row is not something you´ll see many artists accomplice. They are one of the very few death metal acts that have a distinct sound and an overall concept that work wonders. Put on any Nile album and you would instantly be able to tell that it was Nile you were listening to. Now that is what seperates the leaders from the followers. Well crafted memorable compositions, excellent musicianship, and a powerful professional sound production. It´s hard to ask for much more than that. A 4.5 (90%) star rating is deserved.

ATHEIST The Best of Atheist

Boxset / Compilation · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
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aglasshouse
Ever wanted to own a major chunk of Atheist's discography without needing to purchase 2005's The Collection for upwards of $60? Fear not, a solution is here!

After seven long years following Atheist's last studio album Jupiter, the band finally decided to digitally release their first ever compilation album to date- and what a compilation it is! In true-to-form fashion Atheist grab the most sonically insane and cosmic songs from their studio albums (as well as a live version of 'Mother Man' from Live At Wacken 2009) in a massive 22-track corpus. Forthright this puts The Best Of leagues ahead of other death metal contemporaries' works like Death's Best Of in '92 or Nile's Legacy of the Catacombs in '07, granted both rather good releases, simply from the vastness of the song selection. Especially considering Atheist's relatively small discography, 90 minutes of pure action may seem a bit hefty at first, but for only $10 (roughly €8.50 for you Europeans) from Bandcamp it is a fairly free-and-easy deal compared to another compilation that would front you the same price but with half the content.

This album is a perfect introductory release for beginners and also a good pickup for familiars. The only gripes I have with it are the fact that there's no physical release, because I prefer lending actual tangible material to a hypothetical beginner depending on the circumstances, and the fact that my favorite song 'Why Bother?' from Piece of Time is not present. Maybe they took the title a bit too literally?

OBSCURA Cosmogenesis

Album · 2009 · Technical Death Metal
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voila_la_scorie
Brain knot music. The term just popped into my head as I was reading reviews of this album. I have listened to it a few times plus given randomly picked songs extra play time and although I am of the sound and sure opinion that I like it (enough to consider buying another album by Obscura), I am finding it very difficult to stride into a review.

As anyone will tell you, this album, as well as Obscura’s style, is very technical metal. There seems to be something going on constantly and the band are rarely prepared to ease back and let something playout for a bit. I admit to having a certain fondness and admiration for technical bands like Decrepit Birth, Augury, and now Obscura too, but there is that challenge to make sense out of the music of each track and, for that matter, to learn to distinguish one song from another. All instruments are moving often at great speeds and sometimes in seemingly disparate directions except that you understand that the music is actually quite coherent and the instruments intelligently integrated.

What makes Obscura and this album stand apart from much of my previous technical metal listening experiences are a couple of things and that would be the use of slower tempos and even clean and beautiful parts with acoustic guitar or a kind of Steve Vai-like soloing style and the delightful use of bass guitar as an instrument that can hold its own and even stand out in the music. I have a great appreciation for metal and prog music that gives the bass a lead melody or frequently casts the spotlight on that wonderful instrument (which I don’t play, in case you were wondering).

Because of the attention served to these aspects of the music writing, it becomes rather easy to begin to remember tracks for their standout parts rather than be doomed to be remembered as an intriguing and exciting tangle of rapid-fire, aggressive drumming, multi-single-note convoluted guitar riffs, and tangles of shredded solos with pinch harmonic wails that seem to drive through the music like hailstones in a thundershower during a baseball match. No, Obscura make it a little easier to say, “I really like the lead guitar melody here,” or “Good use of clean guitar here to add something to the song,” or “This acoustic passage is very pleasant and unexpected.” Interestingly for me, shortly after acquiring “Cosmogenesis” I got “Focus” by Cynic and I could see the possible influences this older album had on Obscura’s musical style. There is even a bit of vocoder vocals on “Cosmogenesis” as if in salute to “Focus”.

The production is very clear and that is something I appreciate for such complex and often speedy music. My one criticism might be that the growls and sore-throat screams strike me as not being necessary throughout the whole album. It’s not the first time that I was very impressed with the music but felt something more could have been done with the vocals in that the brutal style doesn’t always seem to be the best approach.

And now it looks like I have managed to write just over a page-worth of words in review of this album. Technical. Highly-skilled. Creative. Effective. Challenging.

Delightful brain knot music!

ARCHSPIRE Relentless Mutation

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
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Nightfly
Relentless Mutation is the third album from Canada’s Archspire. Having not heard them until now I thought I’d better check out the first two before reviewing this one, at least in part, which I did selecting a few random tracks from each.

Relentless Mutation is more of the same – that is to say high precision technical death metal displaying admiral musicianship. Most of it’s played at breakneck speed through a blur of blast beats supplied by the impressive Spencer Prewett. Unfortunately it’s marred by a thin boxy drum sound whilst high on definition lacks power. Having said that his busy playing style could have ended up getting lost in a more organic sound so I guess you can’t have it all. The guitar work of Tobi Morelli and Dean Lamb is equally dextrous as they reel off riff after riff and solos of the most complex variety. The opener Involuntary Doppelganger is the perfect case in point and sets the scene for pretty much what you can expect from the rest of the album. Midway however there’s an unexpected surprise with a short but sweet arpeggiated guitar part which adds a bit of colour to the largely relentless onslaught. Similar parts make a welcome appearance now and then throughout the album, most notably on the title track marking it as one of the highlights.

Whilst this kind of stuff can often come across as cold and clinical, as it does fairly often here, there is an injection of melody here and there, more apparent in the lead guitar work which adds some warmth. The vocals have a staccato attack that can sound a little one dimensional at times but nevertheless Oli Peters displays some fairly impressive phrasing. The production whilst lacking a bit of power is at least clear which is pretty essential for music of this complexity. Jared Smith’s dextrous bass work pleasingly cuts through aided by quite a toppy sound.

I’m usually pretty selective in my choice of tech death listening but at only thirty minutes Relentless Mutation doesn’t outstay its welcome. The musicianship is faultless and compositionally it’s good and quite inventive throwing in a few curveballs here and there. Having said that it’s still more an album I can admire rather than love, my preference generally being for something more organic sounding. If this is your thing however there’s plenty to recommend here.

ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence

Album · 1991 · Technical Death Metal
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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!

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