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
4.43 | 125 ratings
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DEATH Symbolic Album Cover Symbolic
DEATH
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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
4.31 | 112 ratings
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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.32 | 71 ratings
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CRYPTOPSY None So Vile Album Cover None So Vile
CRYPTOPSY
4.35 | 30 ratings
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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
NILE
4.43 | 17 ratings
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BEYOND CREATION The Aura Album Cover The Aura
BEYOND CREATION
4.41 | 17 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
4.26 | 34 ratings
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DEATH Human Album Cover Human
DEATH
4.20 | 117 ratings
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AUGURY Concealed Album Cover Concealed
AUGURY
4.31 | 18 ratings
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technical death metal Music Reviews

TERMINAL FUNCTION The Great Liberator

EP · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"The Great Liberator" is an EP release by Swedish technical/progressive metal act Terminal Function. The EP was independently released in September 2018. It´s the successor to the "Krakstören" EP from 2017. Terminal Function started out in 1998 and after recording and releasing three demos in the early 00s, the band released their debut full-length studio album "Measuring the Abstract" in 2008.

Stylistically the material on "The Great Liberator" is a technical and strongly Meshuggah influenced type of metal, with the occasional nod towards the more ethereal progressive metal sounds of Cynic. Terminal Function are exceptionally skilled and well playing and the four tracks on the 16:05 minutes long EP are all well crafted and powerful compositions. So there is no arguing that Terminal Function are both skilled musicians and composers, which only makes it that much more bewildering, that they chose to wear their Meshuggah influence so blatantly on their sleeve. They unfortunately cross into clone/worship territory and completely forget to nurse anything resembling a personal identity.

"The Great Liberator" is a high quality release on all other parameters. The songwriting is effectful and relatively memorable, the sound production is powerful and well sounding, suiting the material well, and the musical performances are on a high level too, but it´s beyond me how Terminal Function can be satisfied sounding this much like a Meshuggah clone. Having been active since 1998 I would have expected that they had at least tried to forge something a little more unique by now...but unfortunately no. I´ll rate this with a 3.5 star (70%) rating purely based on the quality of the product, but I can´t really recommend it, unless you´re a hardcore fan of Meshuggah and just can´t get enough of similar sounding material.

CEREBRUM Iridium

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Iridium" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Greek death metal act Cerebrum. The album was released through Transcending Obscurity Records in December 2018. It´s the successor to "Cosmic Enigma" from 2013 and features one lineup change as Cerebrum have finally found a permanent drummer in Defkalion Dimos. The drums on both predecessors were played by session drummer George Kollias, who is known for his work with Nile.

Cerebrum started out playing a semi-progressive and technically well played type of early 90s influenced death metal on "Spectral Extravagance (2009)" and upped the progressive and technical tendencies even further on "Cosmic Enigma (2013)" (which featured some fairly odd jazz/fusion moments), but on "Iridium" they´ve scaled back some of the technical/progressive extravangancy of especially the predecessor, so in that respect it´s a more straight forward and simple death metal release. That description should be taken with a grain of salt though, as "Iridium" is still a techncially well played death metal release.

The musicianship is decent too and "Iridium" also features a fairly well sounding production, so on most parameters it´s a decent quality release. The songwriting is not that interesting though, and there are generally very few riffs or catchy vocal phrases to hold on to, and most of the album go by without me noticing anything out of the ordinary. The throaty growling vocal style by vocalist/guitarist Jim Touras is not a plus in my book either. His voice and vocal style sound a bit powerless and lacking any real bite.

Upon conclusion this is not a positive development for Cerebrum, which sound a bit like a band experiencing an identity crises. "Spectral Extravagance (2009)" was a promising debut and "Cosmic Enigma (2013)" was also a decent quality technical/progressive death metal release, but "Iridium" sounds like a step backwards in both songwriting and musicianship and that´s not a positive development three albums in. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

AD NAUSEAM Imperative Imperceptible Impulse

Album · 2021 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
AD NAUSEUM hit the ground running in the world of avant-garde tech death metal in 2015 with its lauded “Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est” which proved to be the second coming of Gorguts’ classic “Obscura” wrapped in completely new clothing. With bantering wails of sonic swarms of atonal and jagged guitar riffs teased out into unthinkable detachment, AD NAUSEUM proved they were worthy successors and pretty much handed honorable post doctorates in “Obscura” studies which they so successfully took to the next level in the world of avant-garde metal excess.

If any band can be accused of nerding out to the max, surely it’s this quartet of unorthodox musicians hailing from Scio, Italy which is just a hop, skip and a jump from the city of Venice. Having gotten the unrelenting angst out of their system after a debut album that excelled in a relentless attack so frighteningly intense that it was advised to avoid for those who were faint of heart, after six long years AD NAUSEUM returns with its second coming in the form of IMPERATIVE IMPERCEPTIBLE IMPULSE and as well as leaving the Latin locutions behind, so too does AD NAUSEUM jettison the full speed throttle that dominated the debut.

While the 20th century integral serialism and avant-garde classical underpinnings of the debut rarely peeked out of the bantering din, IMPERATIVE IMPERCEPTIBLE IMPULSE showcases a more relaxed AD NAUSEUM that has allowed less abrasive moments of contemplation to intermingle within the incessant metal brawl that continues the bantering din of the Gorguts playbook. Album #2 features six tracks, all of which exceed the eight minute mark with “Coincidentia oppositorum” racing past the twelve. With a running time of 57 minutes, IMPERATIVE IMPERCEPTIBLE IMPULSE offers a more balanced approach laid down on the debut with an extraordinary attention to details that displays this band’s outstanding commitment to crafting some of the most forward thinking avant-garde metal of the decade.

While still steeped in tech death clothing with growly vocals, aggressive technical guitar wizardry and abrasive atonalities, AD NAUSEUM has like many of its contemporaries in reality drifted off into a totally new world of extreme metal that doesn’t really fit into the established orthodoxies of death, black, sludge, progressive etc metal. While currently only the term avant-garde can really fit the bill, AD NAUSEUM continues the death metal immediacy with the Deathspell Omega abstractness and Meshuggah-like disscontempt of established paradigms. On this sophomore release, AD NAUSEUM pretty much takes all the features of the debut and amplifies them severalfold.

This is the kind of metal monstrosity that has alienated a lot of traditional metalheads for sure as this type of experimental abstractness has totally left the gravitational pull of classic metal approaches and ventured into unknown territory where it seems there is no end in sight as these types of bands venture ever further into the unexplored terrains. AD NAUSEUM seems to have perfected a balancing act here as it delivers unrelenting brutality in the form of atonal dissonance riff barrages wrapped up in progressive tech death clothing however the moments of non-metal shine through much more brightly and feature interesting orchestrations that evoke a keen sense of 20th century classical composers ranging from Arnold Schoeberg and John Cage to free dissonance and experimentalism of Charles Ives and Edgard Verèse. Metal bands like this are truly the new avant-garde classical. There are more moments on this one that remind me of Kayo Dot or Maudlin of the Well than album #1.

This is truly abstractionist’s paradise as AD NAUSEUM really understands the dynamics of metal-in-opposition and develops their post-Obscura-ism even further. Graced with a keen attention to production values as well as over-the-top metal dynamism, this band has truly mastered the true intent of avant-garde extreme metal and showcases a more mature album although many will be instantly alienated by the jagged uninviting soundscapes presented. Advanced metal who study calculus for fun. This is not the instantly warm and fuzzy metal of decades prior but rather the ultimate expression in nerd metal run amok. Personally i love this shit and AD NAUSEUM has unleashed a brilliant followup to its already ambitious debut.

AD NAUSEAM Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est

Album · 2015 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Ever since Gorguts spawned its unorthodox soul crushing “Obscura” onto the world in 1998 there has been an arms race of sort by adventurous tech death metal bands to take such otherworldly atonal entanglements of sonic terror ever further down a rabbit hole so riddled with avant-garde aggressiveness and tortuous labyrinthine nihilism that in comparison to established scenes of extreme metal, these new cutting edge wizards of convoluted complexity sounded like invading alien forces more than anything within the established metal universe. So thereafter bands like Ulcerate, Pyrrhon, Portal and Mitochondrion unleashed equally abstract brutality dressed up in death metal dissonance and 20th century classical integral serialism with frenetic spectral fearfulness, trepidation and utter dread.

One of the newer kids on this block is the Italian band AD NAUSEUM which emanates from the Venetian region’s city of Schio. Having formed in the year 2011, this ear abusing team of four which includes Andrea P. (guitar, vocals), Matteo G. (guitar, backing vocals), Andrea S. (drums) and Matteo B. (bass) graduated from Obscura University and received honorary PHDs for all things deranged and drenched with dissonant dementia. This band spent four long years crafting their ugly aberration of musical mischief which resulted in the delirium that became this debut release NIHIL QUAM VACUITAS ORDINATUM EST which translates into some sort of arcaneness like “Nothing Was Ordered To Empty,” a title that perfectly sums up the head scratching vagueness that this procession of jangled guitar attacks and technical time signature rich jitteriness employs to bestow a temporary lapse of reason and entices the listener into a bizarre new quantum realm where the normal rules of physics do not apply.

While technical death metal has evolved in myriad directions, this is by far the most extreme journey one can embark upon within one of the already most extreme branches of the metal universe. AD NAUSEUM insinuates a nauseous roller coaster ride of sound which it more than delivers as this frantic crushing rampage of sonic swells relentlessly barrages the senses from every possible vector like a sailing vessel lost at sea during the most intense category 5 hurricane extinguishes all hope of survival. This is a wild ride with the intensity of Frodo and Sam marching through Mordor with the intent to rid the world of the ring of power but only to find its will is superior with a cold reptilian intent to dislodge any familiar sanity and cast it into a pool of Promethean fire so intense that mere mortals will melt into the primary elemental components that form the known universe. Yeah! Something like that! Hehe. Touted as Gorguts’ lauded masterwork “Obscura” revived, NIHIL QUAM VACUITAS ORDINATUM EST truly does evoke that glorious milestone of metal music like few others have succeeded in doing.

Graced with eight outlandish tracks that consume over 55 minutes of your precious life-force, AD NAUSEUM relentlessly delivers an incessant attack on all “normalcy” of what metal music is or was i should say, about. With jagged razor sharp bantering guitar riffs pummeling arrows of atonality and a compositional fortitude based in 20th century classical composers which is only brought to life during the rare moments of the metal bombast taking a breather, the John Cage piano experiments and chamber music string sections expose the underbelly of a sophisticated giant lurking beneath the orotund decibelage so utterly intense that it truly sounds as if it was designed to wake the dead and some sort of zombiefication ritual that if nothing else will leave your soul in utter decay. This is truly some seriously chaotic technical music here unlike any other and well worthy of the title of being the next “Obscura” however the beauty thereof lies in the fact that this sect of soul sucking tumult is exquisitely designed and provides a suborder of hypnotic underpinnings that allows one to connect to this much in the way one could connect to the occulted inner workings of “Obscura.” Yes, AD NAUSEUM has done their homework well and crafted a beautiful ugliness fit for those who have always secretly desired a triumvirate unholy unification of Gorguts, Ved Buens Ende and Deathspell Omega.

GROWTH The Smothering Arms of Mercy

Album · 2020 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"The Smothering Arms Of Mercy" is the debut full-length studio album by Australian technical/avant garde death metal act Growth. The album was released through Wild Thing Records in December 2020. Growth formed in 2019 in Melbourne and consists of the Barnes brothers, Tristan (bass, guitars) and Nelson (drums) and lead vocalist Luke Frizon.

Stylistically the material on the 9 track, 62:46 minutes long album is technical/avant garde death metal in the vein of Gorguts and Ulcerate. Growth are slightly more accessible than the two other mentioned acts though, and they even occasionally include clean vocals (or maybe more correctly vocals which are sung and not growling vocals, because most of them are still pretty raw vocals) and some melody. When that happens I´m reminded of the most chaotic and raw moments of Gojira. There is a post-metal touch to the music too in the way some of the tracks build towards climaxes. The best example of that is the closing track "Gird Your Loved in Armour While Yet You Wither".

To listeners familiar with the style, it´s no surprise the riffs are dissonant and the riff- and song structures are often unconventional and twisted. The atmosphere is bleak and the lyrical content depressing. Growth are a very well playing unit and the performances are top notch on all posts. "The Smothering Arms Of Mercy" also features a powerful, raw, and detailed sounding production, so upon conclusion it´s a high quality release through and through. A few more original ideas and a more unique sound could have elevated this album to an even higher state, but it´s still a great album as it is. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

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