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
4.43 | 169 ratings
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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
DEATH
4.42 | 129 ratings
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
GORGUTS
4.45 | 26 ratings
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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.32 | 74 ratings
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CRYPTOPSY None So Vile Album Cover None So Vile
CRYPTOPSY
4.38 | 33 ratings
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DEATH Individual Thought Patterns Album Cover Individual Thought Patterns
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4.30 | 117 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 | 21 ratings
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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
NILE
4.38 | 20 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
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4.27 | 36 ratings
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NILE Annihilation of the Wicked Album Cover Annihilation of the Wicked
NILE
4.24 | 44 ratings
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technical death metal Music Reviews

OBSCURA Diluvium

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Diluvium" is the 5th full-length studio album by German death metal act Obscura. The album was released through Relapse Records in July 2018. It´s the successor to "Akróasis" from 2016 and features the exact same quartet lineup who recorded the predecessor.

The material on "Diluvium" continue the technical/progressive death metal style of "Akróasis (2016)" and it´s the sound of Obscura as they´ve sounded on the last couple of releases. Busy and high energy technical death metal with progressive ideas and strong jazz/fusion leanings. High in the mix fretless bass playing, high speed precision drumming, and powerful sharp death/thrash riffs and blistering lead guitar work. "Diluvium" is a very melodic release, but on the other hand it´s also nicely aggressive and brutal when that is called for. The vocals are predominantly snarling and aggressive growling, but there are some robotic clean vocals featured throughout the album too.

While the musical foundation of the tracks are similar or in other words the tracks are coherent in style, there is still good variation between tracks and within tracks. Tempo changes/time signature changes, different riff styles, varied lead guitar work, and loads of different rhythm patterns. There is generally a very good balance between the elements which make up the tracks, and Obscura are also successful at striking a balance between challenging playing/adventurous song structures and catchy moments/accessibility. So while this is not easy music to listen to, it´s not technical for the sake of it. The technical playing is a means to an end, and the songwriting is in focus in terms of creating something that the listener can relate to and instantly enjoy.

"Diluvium" features a clear, detailed, and powerful sounding production, which suits the material perfectly. Every detail is audible in the mix, and that´s what busy layered music like this requires. So upon conclusion "Diluvium" is yet another high quality release from Obscura. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

DISKORD Degenerations

Album · 2021 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
DISKORD has been around since as far back as 1999 before the Y2K scare even panicked the world but this Norwegian band can hardly begin accused of flooding the market with too much product. In fact it took the an ever-changing lineup and eight years before its debut “Doomscapes” finally saw the light of day but if you count demos and EPs then there were three beforehand. Still though it would take another five years for the band’s second album “Dystopics” to be released and finally in the year 2021 DISKORD’s third album DEGENERATIONS has finally found its way out of the crypts.

While quantity is clearly not this Oslo band’s modus operandi, quality on the other hand is something that this band has clearly nurtured from one album to the next. This band has always been a little out there as far as death metal is concerned. While rooted in old school 90s death metal DISKORD has pretty much never abandoned those old school elements that made early 90s death metal so fucking badass! While “Doomscapes” entertained old school death metal with a touch of doom metal and technical workouts, the band has slowly but surely acquired a little more of an avant-garde taste on each subsequent album.

On this newest release DEGENERATIONS, DISKORD takes those progressive and technical infused liberties even further with a majorly satisfying run of 12 tracks that never stray far over the four minute playing time yet offer some of the most interesting stylistic shifts within what one could deem an old school death metal context. No band other than maybe Japan’s Defiled has so spectacularly maintained an old school sheen while infusing highly sophisticated and oft complex technical deviations laced with moments of progressiveness and downright psychedelic surprises. While all these elements were present as far back as “Doomscapes,” DISKORD has fully mastered its distinct sound although DEGENERATIONS seems to have tamped down the doom metal aspects in favor of a more dissonant style of modern death metal (dissodeath) which is right out of the Immolation, Gorguts, Ulcerate, Portal and Ad Nauseam.

Add to that some unexpected funky jazz grooves (like on “Bionic Tom Eternal”) and strange pick sliding meets power chords and doomy bass stomps such as on “The Endless Spiral” and what DISKORD delivers with DEGENERATIONS is its most complex and varied album of its career. In recent years modern metal bands have really excelled at marrying the old school rhythmic regularities with the more chaotic, dissonant and atonal aspects of modern tech death. DISKORD retains its 90s origins only updates their sound to fit in perfectly with the modern world of more sci-fi infused extreme metal. While some bands like Blood Incantation can craft sprawling psychedelic journeys laced with chugging death metal riffs (Qrixkuor takes this to the ultimate extreme on its latest “Poison Palinopsia,” DISKORD on the other hand keeps the tracks short and to the point with the artistic expression being truncated into micro-riffing, exotic grooves and off-kilter time signature deviations.

Despite the crafty experiments, once again DISKORD maintains its old school death metal charm with the easily recognizable tremolo guitar riffing, blastbeat percussive bombast and of course nasty guttural growls but successfully incorporate myriad experimental approach without allowing things to get too wild and unpredictable. The old school stomps keep the whole thing anchored to the 90s scene yet the spaced out accouterments add an interesting update to the old school sound and while most modern death metal is interested in heading to the stars these days it’s cool that some of these bands are simply OK flying into space for a day or two and coming back down to Earth. Well played, well produced and laced with outstanding compositions, DISKORD proves with DEGENERATIONS that its here for the long term however at this rate we’ll have to wait another ten years for the next album!

QRIXKUOR Poison Palinopsia

Album · 2021 · Technical Death Metal
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As metal streams on into the future it just keeps getting more complex, more diverse and in some cases weirder than anyone from the early 1970s could’ve dreamed when Black Sabbath was ruling the world. In the 21st century there has been a strain of extreme metal that has adapted metal music into the compositional fortitude of 20th century avant-garde classical music making long technical meandering metal music that takes avant-garde and technical to strange new pinnacles of creation.

QRIXKUOR is one such band hailing from the UK and forming back in 2011 with its members simply presenting themselves as mere one-letter appellations. The first lineup of QRIXKUOR released its demo “Consecration of the Temple” in 2014 followed by a debut EP titled “Three Devils Dance” in 2016 however at a running length of 38:22 minutes, the so-called EP was really an album’s worth of twisted sprawling mangled metal magnanimity drenched in atmospheric drifting and technical maestrohood. After discovering this EP a few years back i was immediately hooked and have awaited a so-called debut full-length.

Well finally in 2021 QRIXKUOR has returned with POISON PALINOPSIA and takes the psychedelic and progressive metal knottiness to even further extremes. Five years in the making, POISON PALINOPSIA is pretty much an entirely new band started from scratch with only guitarist S keeping the band afloat in the sea of outrageously inventive metal bands on the world’s stage in the 2020s. Dropping the one-letter shtick, S is revealed to be Steve P on guitars and vocals and newbies Phil Kusabs on bass and drummer Dani Ben-Haim join forces to craft one of the loudest romps in technical progressive death metal in 2021.

POISON PALINOPSIA (palinopsia is a visual disorder in which the patient perceives a prolonged afterimage) is perfectly titled as the near 49-minute album which consists of only two 24 and something minute tracks do indeed flutter on like a stream of consciousness that mimics a comet in the heavens above only punctuated by aggressive guitar and bass riffs, bantering blastbeats and percussive drive and growling roars in the vein of Gorguts, Portal, Ad Nauseam, Ulcerate or Blood Incantation. While uncredited there are also classical music scores as the underbelly that bleed out from time to time. Mostly during the intros but also in non-metal moments of contemplation. This includes some sort of horn sounds and piano.

It goes without saying that QRIXKUOR will only appeal to those who crave the most complex, the most demanding and the most uncompromising type of metal bombast. This is music that is both ridiculously easy to follow and simultaneously crazy, complex and unpredictable. The first track “Serpentine Susurrus - Mother’s Abomination” almost comes off as a 24-minute metallic Krautrock jam from the 1970s with a single focus on drifting through lengthy atmospheric passages only punctuated with extreme metal. While maintaining a central fixation on a post-rock type of cyclical riffing loop, it allows motifs that come and go and offer some of the tech death prowess.

“Recrudescent Malevolence - Mother's Illumination” begins sounding like an atmospheric classical musical piece only set to dark ambient mode with tinkling piano tones and creepy swells of ambient sound but then proceeds to the world of Portal or Mitochondrion with atonal guitar squeals and explosive guitar, bass and drum excess. Unlike the first track, this one retains an unnerving atmospheric presence with harsh atonal guitar screeches which remain even once the stampede of manic metal delivers its full ferocity. This one comes across more as progressive doom metal with a slow stomp and a mid-section of metal-free that provides an intermission before the final ten minutes ramps up the molten metal meltdown.

Not for the feint of heart. This one is extreme in every possible way. The extreme death metal is firing on all cylinders as is the technical and progressive attributes. While not filled with catchy melodies, the cyclical riffing loops do provide somewhat of a melodic basis to grasp on however this is also atonal and dissonant metal which takes advantage of microtones and milks it for all its worth. In the end this will just be too extreme for most proggers and metalheads. This type of music is for the multi-genre crowds like me who can did the most jaded avant-prog, the freakiest atmospheric Krautrock, the most devastatingly beastial death metal and 20th century avant-garde classical scores all wrapped into one. Personally i’m a huge fan of this type of nightmarish sonic terror and this one is not to be missed for fans of Gorguts, Mitochondrion, Portal, Grave Miasma, Ad Nauseam and similar minded extreme metal acts.

NECROPHAGIST Epitaph

Album · 2004 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Epitaph" is the 2nd full-length studio album by German death metal act Necrophagist. The album was released through Relapse Records in August 2004. Necrophagist was formed in 1992 by lead vocalist/guitarist Muhammed Suiçmez and originally featured a full lineup. By the time of the recording of the 1999 "Onset of Putrefaction" debut full-length studio album, Necrophagist was essentially a one-man project with Muhammed Suiçmez handling all instruments and vocals. The album was recorded using a drum machine. In connection with the release of "Epitaph", Relapse Records took the opportunity to re-release "Onset of Putrefaction (1999)" with re-recorded drum parts by Hannes Grossmann. Grossmann also handles the drums on "Epitaph". In addition to Grossmann and Suiçmez the lineup on "Epitaph" includes Christian Münzner (guitars) and Stefan Fimmers (bass).

Stylistically the material on the 8 track, 32:56 minutes long album continues the brutal technical death metal style of "Onset of Putrefaction (1999)". The songwriting has improved since the debut though and "Epitaph" is quite the sophisticated death metal release, featuring occasional neo-classical leanings, surgical precision playing, and a powerful detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. It´s ultra brutal music featuring deep and predominantly unintelligible growling vocals, brutal riffs and both heavy and very fast blasting drumming, but it´s still quite original sounding. Especially some of the lead guitar work is relatively creative. It´s in the songwriting department that "Epitaph" separates itself greatly from the standards of the genre though. It´s one of the few brutal technical death metal albums, that you´re instantly able to recognize when it´s playing. There are other standout releases/artists on the scene, which share the same strengths, but overall too many brutal technical death metal releases/artists imitate and copy each other and tend to become one large grey mass.

With music this extreme you need hooks to hold on to and varied songwriting to keep full album releases interesting. "Epitaph" fully meets those criteria as the album is loaded with catchy riffs, lead melodies, and drum patterns. The vocals are the least intriguing feature on the album, but they get the job done without becoming a distraction. It´s simply a high quality release through and through. From the opening notes of album opener "Stabwound" until the closing notes of album closer "Symbiotic in Theory", the listener is treated to some of the most energetic, well produced, and well written brutal technical death metal around. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved. Had the vocals been more distinct sounding, passionate, and convincing, it could well have been a full 5 star (100%) rating.

ORIGIN Origin

Album · 2000 · Technical Death Metal
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"Origin" is the eponymously titled debut full-length studio album by US, Kansas based death metal act Origin. The album was released through Relapse Records in July 2000. Origin was formed in 1997 by guitarists/vocalists Paul Ryan and Jeremy Turner. The band went through a couple of lineup changes in their early years, but the lineup who recorded "Origin" are in addition to the two above mentioned, Doug Williams (bass), John Longstreth (drums), and Mark Manning (vocals).

Stylistically the music on the album is technical brutal death metal. The musicianship is outstanding and the album features more than one jaw-dropping moment of virtuosic bliss. Razor sharp riffs and lightning fast drumming. The vocals are predominantly unintelligible deep growling, but there are also higher pitched screams thrown in for good meassure. It´s incredibly intense and brutal death metal played with great technical skill.

The vocals are a bit one-dimensional both in phrasing and rhythm (often delivered in staccato attack mode), so that part of the music is actually pretty standard for the genre and nothing out of the ordinary. The instrumental part of the music is slightly more original, but mostly in the drumming department. Longstreth was at this point relatively fresh out of his stint with Angelcorpse, and listeners familiar with the aggressive blackened death metal assault of that group, won´t be surprised by the skill and creativity of the man´s drumming. He is one of those rare extreme metal drummers who are able to bring something new and creative to the genre.

The material on the 9 track, 29:46 minutes long album is well written for the style. It´s brutal, technical, and effective, but there is an issue with variation between tracks. Even after repeated listens it´s still hard to tell the tracks apart, and although each individual track is high quality technical brutal death metal, more catchy memorable moments and more variation between tracks, could have elevated the album to a higher level.

So "Origin" is a high quality release on some areas, and need some improvement in others. Overall it´s a quality release though, featuring a detailed and powerful sound production, excellent musicianship, and some decent songwriting (with the reservations mentioned above). A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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