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 Symbolic Album Cover Symbolic
DEATH
4.45 | 176 ratings
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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
DEATH
4.43 | 134 ratings
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
GORGUTS
4.45 | 30 ratings
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DEATH Individual Thought Patterns Album Cover Individual Thought Patterns
DEATH
4.34 | 125 ratings
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CRYPTOPSY None So Vile Album Cover None So Vile
CRYPTOPSY
4.39 | 37 ratings
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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.32 | 79 ratings
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BEYOND CREATION The Aura Album Cover The Aura
BEYOND CREATION
4.43 | 18 ratings
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NOCTURNUS The Key Album Cover The Key
NOCTURNUS
4.39 | 22 ratings
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NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest Album Cover Those Whom the Gods Detest
NILE
4.30 | 39 ratings
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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
NILE
4.36 | 22 ratings
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AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence Album Cover Fragmentary Evidence
AUGURY
4.35 | 22 ratings
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NILE Annihilation of the Wicked Album Cover Annihilation of the Wicked
NILE
4.26 | 48 ratings
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technical death metal Music Reviews

WEREWOLVES From the Cave to the Grave

Album · 2022 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"From the Cave to the Grave" is the third full-length studio album by Australian death metal/deathgrind act Werewolves. The album was released through Prosthetic Records in June 2022. It´s the successor to "What a Time to Be Alive" from January 2021. Since forming in 2019 Werewolves have been quite prolific in terms of output, releasing an album every year since. The trio lineup of drummer David Haley, guitarist Matt Wilcock, and lead vocalist/bassist Sam Bean who recorded the preceding album are intact.

Stylistically the material on "From the Cave to the Grave" is pretty much more of the same too. It´s highly energetic, brutal, and technically well played deathgrind, with both death metal, grindcore, and the occasional thrash/black metal element thrown in for variation. The vocals vary from higher pitched aggressive snarling to brutal death metal growling. The sound production is clear, brutal, and detailed, suiting the material well. "From the Cave to the Grave" is well performed too by a cast of seasoned musicians (known for their involvement in acts like Psycroptic, Abramelin, The Antichrist Imperium, and The Berzerker).

So "From the Cave to the Grave" is overall a good quality deathgrind release, but when that is said the 9 track, 34:41 minutes long album isn´t loaded with memorable tracks. It´s the kind of album that´s enjoyable, effective, and powerful while it plays, but doesn´t leave much of a lasting impression when it´s done. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

DEATH Symbolic

Album · 1995 · Technical Death Metal
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Necrotica
I remember when I first heard the phrase “adventure metal”; guitarist Chris Letchford used it to describe his band Scale the Summit. And it’s not like I can’t see where he’s coming from, either. Scale the Summit use atmosphere and shifts in mood to take you on a journey, an expedition of sorts. At the same time, though, it’s not like they were the first band to come up with such a concept; countless acts, from Opeth to Gojira, have gone great lengths to make their music feel more like an excursion than mere tracklists. But today, we’re going to talk about a band who had to evolve to get to this point: the almighty metal giants Death. To put it simply, it’s hard to believe that the same band that wrote such a primal display of death metal fury as Scream Bloody Gore could come up with an incredible mixture of aggression and sophistication. Despite this, Symbolic proved to be the pinnacle of Death’s steady evolution into the realm of progressive extreme metal. With a new lineup of guitarist Bobby Koelble, bassist Kelly Conlon, and returning drummer Gene Hoglan, Chuck was ready to redefine metal once again… this time achieving the strongest results.

From the opening notes of the title track, Symbolic sounds like a daunting undertaking, as if you’re actually scaling a mountain. Those monumental octave-jumping riffs, combined with the classically-inclined melodies arched above, show just how much Chuck Schuldiner had grown as a songwriter over the years. It’s not enough anymore to just have meaty, brutal riffs, but now they’re all embellished with little ornaments that flesh out the atmosphere and diversity of the recording. That melodic opening riff in “Without Judgment” sounds pretty cool; what more could they add? Well, some intricate and progressive drum fills courtesy of Gene Hoglan should do the trick. That chunky Drop-D intro to “Crystal Mountain” is aggressive and driving; how about that one? Get Schuldiner and Bobby Koelble to bring in some classical harmonies straight out of a Dream Theater album to round it out! Despite the progressive influences, however, the technicality and ambition never get overbearing to the point that they get in the way of a good riff or a good groove. On top of that, songs like “Misanthrope” and “1,000 Eyes” still pay respect to the band’s thrash-driven past with harsh and relentless arrangements that round out the variety on Symbolic.

Now, let’s get back to that first statement I made: the one regarding “adventure metal.” That may sound like a really stupid term (and, to be honest, I’d agree), but it’s still a great way to describe Symbolic. The way each song shifts and adjusts to each change in mood and tone is ridiculously natural, and gives off the true sense of embarking on a journey. “Perennial Quest” is probably the best example, especially in how it concludes the record with a soft acoustic portion that somehow doesn’t sound out-of-place on a Death album (then again, there’s also “Voice of the Soul”...). Many of the riffs and melodies here are adorned with an emotional punch that’s lacking in a lot of today’s technical metal; just listen to the quiet introduction to “Empty Words” and the subtle melancholy it wrings out of the clean guitar progression. On a similar note, check out the beautiful clean section of “Sacred Serenity,” which provides a nice contemplative break from the metal frenzy without breaking too far away from the band’s signature style. The lyrics are equally thought-provoking too, touching on themes of religion, hypocrisy, deceit, misanthropy, as well as many depictions of inner contemplation and soul-searching. The poetry on the record brings nice accompaniment to the more advanced musical arrangements, to say the least.

Death’s followup The Sound of Perseverance might be even more adventurous, and Individual Thought Patterns might have been more technical, but neither of them pulled these qualities together as meaningfully as Symbolic did. If you were to ask me why Symbolic works so well, I could answer that in just a few words: songwriting and storytelling. They sound like simple ingredients, but Death elevated them to such lofty heights that very few death metal or progressive metal bands could keep up with the sheer ambition and focus of this epic. Symbolic is beautiful, immersive, elaborate, brutal, and a stunning testament to just how emotionally and artistically accomplished heavy metal can be.

DECAPITATED Cancer Culture

Album · 2022 · Technical Death Metal
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Kev Rowland
Back with their eighth full-length album, Decapitated show no sign whatsoever of slowing down. Guitarist Vogg has of course been there since the very beginning back in 1996, while singer Rasta has also been there for more than ten years, but since their last album they have brought in a new drummer in James Stewart. They don’t have a full-time bassist at present, but previous member Paweł Pasek stepped in as a guest for this release, while they also have two guests who each contribute vocals to one track, namely Tatiana Shmayluk from Jinjer and none other than Robb Flynn from Machine Head!

What sets this album apart from much of their output is the sheer diversity contained within. They keep switching tempos so one is never sure what is going to come next, the result being an album that sits strongly within the traditional death metal genre yet keeps moving and changing. The brutal “Hello Death” suddenly loses its bass, we get a lot of finger-tapping and suddenly Tatiana is in there providing clear vocals and then we move into a style which has much more in common with djent. If that were not enough, “Iconoclast” is an absolute stand out with Robb Flynn providing some wonderful clear vocals in the middle which transforms what has been until then a death metal belter. Vogg has been in this band most of his life, and his guitar sound is rich and deep as he continues to drive the band forward, taking them in new directions. The title cut is the first proper song, and it is ear-strippingly fast, yet there is polish within, while “Just a Cigarette” allows Stewart to show he would be just at happy in a grindcore band, yet still provides finesse with some nice nuances around the kit.

They have celebrated their first quarter of century in style, here’s to the next.

AD NAUSEAM Imperative Imperceptible Impulse

Album · 2021 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Imperative Imperceptible Impulse" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Italian death metal act Ad Nauseam. The album was released through Imperative Imperceptible Impulse in February 2021. It´s the successor to "Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est" from 2015. Ad Nauseam formed in 2011 in Schio (Vicenza), Veneto. They were formerly known under the Death Heaven name and released the "Viral Apocalypse (2007)" album under that monicker before changing their name to Ad Nauseam in 2011.

"Imperative Imperceptible Impulse" features a brutal, raw, and organic sounding dissonant death metal sound. It´s chaotic, complex, and technically very well performed, and Ad Nauseam are arguably a skilled unit. The material are generally far removed from traditional death metal (except the deep growling vocals), and most riffs on the album are dissonant and almost avant gardish in their twisted nature. In other words Ad Nauseam are children of the Gorguts school. Ad Nauseam take the dissonant death metal style into more murky and organic territories though and often add an almost dark psychadelic and abstract twist to it. It´s definitely not an easy or accessible listen, and even within the often challenging world of dissonant death metal this album is in the difficult end of the spectrum in terms of accessibility. In comparison I´d say artists like Gorguts and Ulcerate produce more accessible material (well...comparatively).

A murky, complex, dissonant, and technical beast of an album, it´s safe to say that "Imperative Imperceptible Impulse" is not for the faint at heart. The chaotic dissonant nature of the music will test even the most ardent technical death metal fan, which is also why the most atmospheric abstract sections are a nice breather/variation on the album. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ACID DEATH Hall of Mirrors

Album · 2015 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Hall of Mirrors" is the 4th full-length studio album by Greek technical/progressive death/thrash metal act Acid Death. The album was released through 7Hard Records in September 2015. It´s the successor to "Eidolon" from 2012 although the two full-length releases are bridged by the 2013 "MisleD 2013 Re-recorded" EP. There has been one lineup change since "Eidolon (2012)" as guitarist Kostas Karavelas has been replaced by John Anagnostou.

Stylistically the material on "Hall of Mirrors" continue in the same technical/progressive death metal direction as the material on "Eidolon (2012)". It´s music strongly influenced by the early 90s technical/progressive death metal scene (artists like Death and especially the Italian Sadist come to mind). It´s a bit more contemporary sounding though, which means it´s a little more heavy and groove oriented than the 90s influences. The title track is for example a full fledged groove metal track.

"Hall of Mirrors" features a well sounding production job, tight and skilled musicianship, and the material is well written and effective. The combination of 90s technical/progressive death metal elements and more contemporary heavy groove metal oriented elements won´t please all listeners, but there´s nothing wrong with the execution or the overall album package. This is a quality release and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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