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
4.47 | 177 ratings
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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
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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 | 23 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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AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence Album Cover Fragmentary Evidence
AUGURY
4.35 | 22 ratings
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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
NILE
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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ARTIFICIAL BRAIN Artificial Brain

Album · 2022 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Tech death metal is one thing and progressive death metal is another but sometimes the two trajectories cross paths like a supply stop on the silk road so many centuries ago. ARTIFICIAL BRAIN has the perfect moniker for the modern world where A.I. threatens to become self-aware and take over the planet as we carbon-based lifeforms become expendable commodities but i digress. This Long Island, NY band has been around for just over a decade now and has tackled the dilemma of how to evolve death metal into the next phase like many a band struggling to take its compositional fortitude beyond the beefy machismo of incessant physicality.

Ever since Gorguts upped the ante there’s been a sort of arms race to seamlessly merge the world of progressive rock with the technical brutality of death metal and while many have failed in this daunting task, some like ARTIFICIAL BRAIN seem to have been born for this task. This quintet of deathly noise makers is unusual in that it features six members which includes the occasional use of a saxophone :o No worries death metal stalwarts, this is pummel your friggin’ brains out central with no signs of jazzy interludes interfering with the mission of unleashing blackened death metal riffage from the depths of Hades through sonic portals via modern technology.

I must say that this set of ten tracks successfully employs all the benefits of brutal death metal characteristic well with the progressive underbelly of a rock in opposition convention without sacrificing the lamb of death metal standards. Tough tightrope act i know but ARTIFICIAL BRAIN on its third and eponymously titled album seem to pull it off remarkably well after a tech death focused debut and a blackened atmospheric sophomore release. On this third installment of the ARTIFICIAL BRAIN universe everything comes together very well with a bizarre merging of the savagery of extreme metal bombast with a keen sense of rhythmic turbulence that is as unrelenting as a prostitute in the red light district of Amsterdam (OMG have you been there?)

This album really nails the holy trilogy of melding black metal, death metal and progressive rock into a holy union. Whether animals were sacrificed to achieve that remains a mystery but somehow this group of Long Islanders found the stabilizing elixir of sound to make this disco-death mess work so well. Everything is balanced perfectly with the tones, timbres and extremes of death metal in the sonority perfectly blending with the progressive compositional doughtiness. This album packs a punch for sure and is that really a tree emerging from the forest and giving the middle finger? Oh how my imagination gets out of control sometimes. Just listen to the track “Embalmed With Magma” and then you’ll get the gist of how this band has totally created a prog / death metal chimera of unthinkableness.

While a lot of death metal can sound the same to those not indoctrinated into its stealth bombing of the senses, close attentive listens can be quite rewarding since the genre demands a careful inspection of its mechanical underpinnings to differentiate it from a multitude of similarly hyperactive speed freaks. To perform such antics at these breakneck speeds is impressive indeed and ARTIFICIAL BRAIN has either sold out to A.I. to make this album possible or is indeed a very talented posse of carbon-based human lifeforms that has done its homework in constructed a chimera of utmost beauty blackened by the harshness of aural ugliness. Well, any way you slice it i’m in. What really works about this is a) the growly vocals are low in the mix b) the production is stellar and c) the musicianship is above average. Not a masterpiece of the ages but an excellent proggy death metal experience for sure.

SPAWN OF POSSESSION Noctambulant

Album · 2006 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Noctambulant" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Spawn of Possession. The album was released through Neurotic Records in May 2006. It´s the successor to "Cabinet" from 2003 and features one lineup change as Spawn of Possession have added lead vocalist Jonas Renvaktar to the lineup. Drummer Dennis Röndum, who performed lead vocals on "Cabinet (2003)" is credited for additional vocals on "Noctambulant", but in reality he performed most of the vocals on the album.

Stylistically the material on "Noctambulant" continue the brutal technical death metal style of "Cabinet (2003)". There have been some development of style and Spawn of Possession have added some new musical ideas (which include some jazz/fusion influenced parts), but "Noctambulant" still feels like a natural successor to "Cabinet (2003)". Fast-paced staccato delivered growling vocals, some of the most inventive and twisted guitar work on the scene (some of these tracks sound like little is repeated twice), and some powerful and intricate precision drumming. This is not easily accessible music, and even for the genre (which is usually were busy and technical) it´s a challenging and sometimes difficult listen, as the music features constantly changing tempos and time signatures. How these guys remember how to play the material is beyond me. That´s how complex the tracks are on "Noctambulant".

The speed and dexterity are at times jaw-droppingly virtuosic. Spawn of Possession are a strong playing unit and all involved are extremely skilled at playing their instruments. The growling vocals are pretty standard for the genre though, and I´ll go as far as to call them the weak link of the music. More distinct sounding and intelligible growling vocals could definitely have made that part of the music more interesting. "Noctambulant" features a well sounding production, which is well suited for the material. It´s not too meaty and bottom deep, but more clear and detailed than what is standard for the genre.

Upon conclusion "Noctambulant" is a high quality brutal technical death metal release, which manages to stand out as original on the scene. As mentioned it´s a difficult listen, and it is sometimes a minor issue that it´s such a challenging listen, that the listener at times becomes almost disorientated. A few more hooks and catchy vocal phrases and a little more variation between tracks would have been welcome. Spawn of Possession have chosen the path of uncompromise though and as a consequence "Noctambulant" is more a musicians album made for other musicians than an album for the more casual death metal fan. You can decide for yourself if that´s a good or a bad thing. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

DEIVOS Demiurge of the Void

Album · 2011 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Demiurge of the Void" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Polish death metal act Deivos. The album was released through Unique Leader Records in September 2011. It´s the successor to "Gospel of Maggots" from 2010. Since the predecessor bassist/vocalist Jarosław Pieńkoś has left and has been replaced by bassist Kamil Stadnicki and lead vocalist Hubert Banach (also known under his charming stage name Angelfuck).

"Demiurge of the Void" continues the brutal technical death metal style of its direct predecessor but as a result of the production choices, it´s a more raw and filthy sounding release than "Gospel of Maggots (2010)". It´s incredibly intense music with a very high brutality factor. Deep unintelligble growling vocals, fast precision drumming (with quite creative use of cymbals), and fast and brutal riffs are some of the ingredients of the band´s sound. In many ways the epitome of the brutal technical death metal style, but Deivos generally have a little more to offer than your average band in the genre. The many tempo changes, use of brutal grooves, and especially the adventurous drumming, make Deivos stand out a little.

To most ears "Demiurge of the Void" will probably sound like most other brutal technical death metal releases though, but it is definitely an album where it´s worth investigating the details. While Deivos typically shine when they try something a little different from the norm of the genre, there are also sections on the album, which are very standard for the genre. Both in terms of songwriting ideas and quality. One of those features are the vocals, which are as standard as they get in this genre. They are relatively well performed, but they add very little to the music and more distinct sounding growling vocals, could pretty surely have elevated the album to a higher state. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

QRIXKUOR Zoetrope

EP · 2022 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Proof that experimental extreme metal is the new prog of the 21st century, the London based QRIXKUOR has taken the underworld by storm in recent years with a series of innovative monstrous releases that continue to push the bar in terms of both complexity and innovation. Following last year’s “Poison Palinopsia,” this mere duo of S (vocals, guitars, bass) and D (drums) is back with a larger than life single track experience titled ZOETROPE.

While the EP is titled ZOETROPE, the single track features a lengthier syllabic soup of “Zoetrope (Psychospiritual Sparagmos)” and clocks in at just under 25 minutes. This vicious beast of a musical experience was released by both Invictus Productions and Dark Descent Records. The word ZOETROPE refers to a Victorian mechanical device that produces the illusion of animation by peeking through a hole of a cylindrical version of a phenakistiscope while various images rush by.

While tagged as technical death metal, black metal or progressive metal, QRIXKUOR is what i have come to refer to as astral abyss metal as band lead S seems to have the power to summon sonic demons from parallel dimensions and despite the pummeling military drumming assaults and droning guitar feedback fuzz utilizes symphonic 20th century classical ambience in order to craft a hypnotic effect that allows the listener to simply go along for the ride in a pacified pummeled state if you will.

QRIXKUOR is part of a new metal world where the extremes of worlds of death metal, black metal and doom metal have been alchemized into a new uglier Frankenstein of sonic terror that features an underpinning of divine beauty behind the decibel swarms of dissonant distortion. While only a mere track, ZOETROPE delivers a full album experience with a tone setting opening that slowly morphs droning guitars and swirling ambience into a ferocious assault of blackened death metal orotundity.

The track evolves into a complex array of extreme metal pummeling over 20th century avant-garde classical music compositional fortitude and at times when the symphonic elements are firing on all pistons does remind a bit of symphonic death metal bands such as Fleshgod Apocalypse or even Septicflesh. The difference is that QRIXKUOR doesn’t deliver short and catchy melodic compositions but rather glacial movements of ever-changing musical motifs that subtly ratchet up the tortuous tale like the animated device of the release’s namesake.

The metal angst completely drops out half way through and the classical elements are allowed to dominate the show for a while. This allows some palette cleansing and offers an insight into the true underpinnings of QRIXKUOR’s overarching plan of action which would be to display a classical music score completely decorated with extreme metal clothing. More modern metal bands have adopted this same approach with bands like Ad Nauseam, Abyssal, Coma Cluster Void and Ulcerate upping the complexity and inaccessibility factor of the metal universe with each subsequent release.

All in all ZOETROPE is a masterpiece of modern metal with an organic flow of violent noise channeled into patterns of sound that somehow emulate an episode of astral attacks from the demonic realm. Horror metal in the metaphysical world, the stuff that would give sorcerer’s psychological scars with never-ending nightmares for eternity. QRIXKUOR proves with ZOETROPE that his is no flash in the pan sort of musical act. The consistent growth and maturity continues to propel metal into the realms of the most sophisticated world of classical and progressive arenas of the musical world. To my ears, ZOETROPE is sheer perfection on multiple levels. QRIXKUOR has quickly become one of my favorite extreme bands of recent years.

DEIVOS Gospel of Maggots

Album · 2010 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Gospel of Maggots" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Polish death metal act Deivos. The album was released through Unique Leader Records in February 2010. It´s the successor to "Emanation From Below" from 2006, so it´s been a few years since the release of the predecessor. Considering how many years it took from the band´s formation in 1997 until they released "Emanation From Below (2006)", four years really aren´t that many though. The four-piece lineup who recorded the predecessor is still intact on "Gospel of Maggots".

The material on the 10 track, 32:38 minutes long album continue the brutal technical death metal style of "Emanation From Below (2006)". It´s brutal, energetic, and powerful sounding death metal played by a skilled act. Especially drummer Krzysztof "Wizun" Sapan is an incredible skilled and also quite creative musician. I don´t think I´ve ever heard a brutal technical death metal release featuring as adventurous use of cymbals and cowbell as Sapan treats the listener to on "Gospel of Maggots". His playing on this album elevates the music to a level beyond what most similar acts/releases are able to deliver. The rest of the band are also very skilled musicians though, and they should definitely not be forgotten when praising the brutal assault and technical finésse of the instrumental part of the album. These guys can play fast and they can play heavy with equal amounts of conviction...

...none of which would have mattered if the material weren´t as well written, catchy, and powerful as the case is here. The unintelligible growling vocals by Jaroslaw Pieńkoś are not the most interesting growling vocals I´ve ever heard, and although he occasionally spices things up with some higher pitched aggressive screaming, the vocals are the weak link of the album. They get the job done, but that´s it. "Gospel of Maggots" features a powerful, brutal, and detailed sound production, so other than the relatively "standard for the genre" vocals, it´s a high quality brutal technical death metal release and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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