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
4.45 | 142 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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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
DEATH
4.31 | 105 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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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.32 | 57 ratings
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DEATH Individual Thought Patterns Album Cover Individual Thought Patterns
DEATH
4.26 | 96 ratings
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
GORGUTS
4.34 | 23 ratings
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NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest Album Cover Those Whom the Gods Detest
NILE
4.30 | 30 ratings
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AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence Album Cover Fragmentary Evidence
AUGURY
4.37 | 15 ratings
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DEATH Human Album Cover Human
DEATH
4.19 | 95 ratings
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NOCTURNUS Thresholds Album Cover Thresholds
NOCTURNUS
4.48 | 9 ratings
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NOCTURNUS The Key Album Cover The Key
NOCTURNUS
4.31 | 16 ratings
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technical death metal Music Reviews

DECAPITATED Anticult

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
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Nightfly
The demise and resurrection of Decapitated is well documented in the realms of death metal with the tragic death of guitarist Waclaw "Vogg" Kieltyka’s brother Witold "Vitek" Kieltyka, drummer extraordinaire in a bus crash in 2007. Then vocalist Adrian "Covan" Kowanek has still not made a full recovery from his injuries. The previous year the band had released perhaps their best album Organic Hallucinosis, the only one to feature the vocals of Covan. Forward to 2011 and Vogg returned with a new line-up and Carnival Is Forever, an album marking a considerable change in the band’s sound that wasn’t well received by some fans.

Not surprisingly Anticult is clearly in the tradition of the last two albums but with added groove. I’ve heard a lot of talk lately that Decapitated have abandoned death metal and turned into a groove metal band. Well this clearly isn’t the case – sure, this has more groove than Blood Mantra, in fact more than any album they’ve released but go back and take a listen to Organic Hallucinosis or The Negation and you’ll find groove. Though the balance has been tipped Decapitated are still making technical death metal. The sound of Anticult is huge – very percussive and I don’t just mean Mlody’s driving drum patterns but also new boy Hubert Więcek’s bass and Vogg’s razor sharp riffs. Rafał Piotrowski’s vocals echo this with his aggressive staccato delivery. The album of course was going to live or die by Vogg’s guitar playing and he delivers on all fronts with jaw dropping riffs, licks and some incendiary soloing. Earth Scar is my pick of the bunch and as good an example as any as to define Decapitated’s current sound with driving double kicks behind precision riffing and a brutal ending with the snare mirroring the riff to perfection rounding it off.

If you still mourn for the old style Decapitated then forget it – this is a different band and they clearly aren’t planning on making any U-turns. Out the last three, including this, I’d say I’d still rate Blood Mantra as my favourite, an album I gave four stars to, but in all honesty I couldn’t award Anticult any less.

ULSECT Ulsect

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
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Nightfly
As soon as Fall To Depravity, the opening track on the eponymous debut album from Dutch death metal band Ulsect kicks in, it’s pretty apparent that we’re not going to be in for an easy listen. This band features a couple of members of Dodecahedron for starters, an avant black metal band who as it happens I only discovered a few months ago. Well you could say that Ulsect are the death metal equivalent.

So what you get here is those chiming dissonant guitar riffs that seems to be quite a thing these days. Now I’m all for a bit of this sort of stuff and have albums by the likes of Deathspell Omega and Gorguts (an immediate reference) in my collection but it’s fairly easy to descend into total chaos without structure when playing this avant style. Fortunately Ulsect have the necessary chops and writing skills – they’re not new at this after all despite this being their debut, to pull it off. Kings of the atonal riff for me are Immolation but Ulsect aren’t anything like them being a much looser proposition. Their riffs chime and resonate and are soaked in atmosphere with the black metal leanings of guitarist and drummer Joris Bonis and Jasper Barendregt showing through though at times they tighten things up with some unison syncopated rhythms. This is great stuff and Ulsect create an uneasy tension in their music, seemingly on the verge of falling apart at any minute but the inventive drumming of Barendregt holding it all together nicely.

By anyone’s standards this is a very good album, all the more remarkable it being their debut. Definitely a band worth keeping an eye on for those into this sort of thing and a band I’ll watch with interest in the future.

DECAPITATED Anticult

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
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Kev Rowland


When a band is formed at music school, the chances are that the guys behind it know what they are doing with their instruments, and this is how Polish technical death metal act Decapitated burst onto the scene more than twenty years ago. Since then they have released albums, suffered tragedy (in 2007 their tour bus collided with a truck, and drummer and founder member Witold "Vitek" Kieltyka died from his injuries) and been through line-up changes, so that only guitarist Waclaw ‘Vogg’ Kieltyka is still there from the beginning, but they show no signs of slowing down. There has been a slight line-up change since the last album, ‘Blood Mantra’, with bassist Hubert Więcek (Banisher), officially replacing Paweł Pasek last year. Hubert is normally a guitarist, and that is his role in Banisher, so he has a different approach to many bassists and has really locked in with both Vogg and drummer Michal Lysejko, allowing singer Rafał ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski to get on with what he does best.

Although this is still death metal, it isn’t nearly as “pure” as could be found in the band’s early days, as they have combined death, thrash, rock ‘n’ roll, even black metal, and atmospheric parts together. I am also convinced that it was no accident that they chose Daniel Bergstrand to be involved with the mixing and mastering, as there is a distinct Meshuggah flavour to much of this. It is heavy, it is loud, it is raw, and it is most definitely passionate. This is music with balls, attitude, attack, and a refusal to conform, and all power to them for that. They included many first takes on this album, including many of the solos, and the vitality and power shines through in everything they do. They are planning on touring throughout the world to promote this album, and I can only hope that they include New Zealand in that list as this is a band I really want to see. This is superb.

NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest

Album · 2009 · Technical Death Metal
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voila_la_scorie
At the beginning of my new journey into extreme metal, I recalled the band Nile being mentioned a few times on MMA and decided to check them out. This album became my first acquisition and I have decided it will be only the first of a few.

Nile are a band that stick with an ancient Egyptian theme, and I think for many bands, commencing their careers with such a theme can be exciting because of all the possibilities they imagine ahead. However, a few albums later and the theme can start to run a little thin. Knowing that this is the band's sixth album, I had to wonder what stage in their theme's evolution I was at. Had they begun with a very strong emphasis on the Egyptian theme and then eased back on it? Had they almost dropped it and were now bringing it back a little? Did they more or less maintain the Egyptian theme at the same level? Until I hear more albums I will not know for sure. But here are my impressions of "Those Whom the Gods Detest".

First off, the Egyptian theme is mostly in the artwork, the song titles, and the lyrics, though at times we can hear what sounds like ancient brass, shamic chanting, ancient stringed instruments and percussion, and voices chanting or wailing. I like how the band has included these as additional colour and tone without relying too heavily on them. They don't fill or lead the song but add atmosphere and interest.

As a brutal death metal band you can expect some furious drumming. I have been really impressed with drummer George Kollias because he not only has perfected all the standard death metal chops of double kick bass, blast beats, and speedy fills, but he actually uses the his drum fills to emphasis beats. Usually drum fills replace beats by filling the space with a flurry of snare and tom activity. But Kollias strikes the toms hitting each drum hard first before letting the sticks do their dance on the skins. Instead of a drum fill going brrrr, prrrat-ta-tat (sorry for the crude omomatopeaia), Kollias does a brr-brr-brrah-brrat-tarr-trr-brr kind of thing. Yes, they way I write it sounds silly and there's probably a percussion speak term that describes it. Anyway, I enjoy listening to his drum tricks.

The guitar parts of the music are an interesting pallette of breakneck speedy riffs, mid-tempo crushing riffs, and slow, ponderous riffs that are so slow and heavy they are like the feet of a ressurected mummy dragging across the limestone slabs. Way back in the early days of thrash metal, it was common for guitarists to tremolo pick chords at high speeds while drummers had to stick with just fairly fast beats. These days, drumming techniques can allow drummers to play beats faster than the guitarists can keep up. So here we have some songs with mid-tempo riffs and high-speed percussion. I think Nile marry this combination with great skill here.

The vocals are really awesome. We have the tough, ragged throat brutal vocals, and deeper death growls, and also a share of the deep, gutteral, toilet-bowl-gurgling vocals. Some extreme bands vocalize everything in this deep rumble and the lyrics are completely incomprehensible. Nile use this method of vocalizing for effect and drop it in mid-sentence so that it's possible to still follow the lyrics if you listen carefully. I think it really works!

Last, the production quality is super sharp which is necessary for an album like this to succeed sonically. With all the percussive effects, the additional voices and so on, it's a real treat to hear them enhance the mood and music. The track called "Yezd Desert Ghul Ritual in the Abandoned Towers of Silence" has these fabulous slapping percussive instruments, deep growls like from a beast the size of Jabba the Hutt, swishing sounds, chanting, wailing, clinking, and an ancient stringed instrument. It's like listening to a scene from an Egyptian horror movie in THX in the movie theater.

For my first Nile album, "Those Whom the Gods Detest" has made a considerable impression. Before the summer is over I will be sure to add at least one more album to my collection and for sure a third before the year is out.

ORIGIN Unparalleled Universe

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
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Kev Rowland
For twenty years, Origin has engaged a full-blown sensory assault of tight, taut, and technical death metal amplified by flashes of grindcore and groove. The quartet of Paul Ryan (guitar, vocals), John Longstreth (drums), Mike Flores (bass, vocals), and Jason Keyser (vocals) are now back with their latest album, following on from 2014’s ‘Omnipresent’. The last three years has seen a lot of touring, with the likes of Aborted, Exhumed to Immolation, Marduk and Belphegor, and they are showing no signs of slowing down. The album was recorded and mixed at Chapman Studios in February 2017 alongside long-time collaborator and engineer Robert Rebeck (Tech N9ne). The band emerged with ten new songs including a cover of Brujeria's "Revolución", that were mastered in March 2017 by Colin Marston at Menegroth - The Thousand Caves (Altar of Plagues, Jarobe, Krallice).

Paul Ryan says “It feels like an Origin album, but it’s unparalleled to what you might expect if you haven’t heard us for 10 or 15 years. To me, it’s a true reflection of ourselves. I compare it to an action movie. Our earlier material is filled with action from beginning to end. Now, the idea is to add a little more depth and dynamics. You could say there are some twists in the plot musically”. This is brutal death metal, with more in common with grindcore than many other purveyors of the genre. The blastbeats keep coming, the guitars are tight with the bass, and Jason wouldn’t sound out of place fronting Cannibal Corpse. This is awesome on just so many levels, and is one of the best death metal albums I have come across. If you want to lose your dandruff and get severe neck ache then this is the one to get.

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