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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DEATH Symbolic Album Cover Symbolic
DEATH
4.39 | 151 ratings
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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
DEATH
4.40 | 110 ratings
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GORGUTS Colored Sands Album Cover Colored Sands
GORGUTS
4.42 | 23 ratings
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DEATH Individual Thought Patterns Album Cover Individual Thought Patterns
DEATH
4.29 | 100 ratings
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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
NILE
4.50 | 12 ratings
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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.27 | 61 ratings
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BEYOND CREATION The Aura Album Cover The Aura
BEYOND CREATION
4.42 | 14 ratings
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OBSCURA Omnivium Album Cover Omnivium
OBSCURA
4.31 | 32 ratings
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CRYPTOPSY None So Vile Album Cover None So Vile
CRYPTOPSY
4.30 | 28 ratings
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AUGURY Fragmentary Evidence Album Cover Fragmentary Evidence
AUGURY
4.31 | 18 ratings
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DEATH Human Album Cover Human
DEATH
4.17 | 103 ratings
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NILE Annihilation of the Wicked Album Cover Annihilation of the Wicked
NILE
4.21 | 38 ratings
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technical death metal Music Reviews

DEATH Human

Album · 1991 · Technical Death Metal
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martindavey87
Okay this isn’t going to make me any friends... but this is my review and I can only share my honest opinion...

Yuck. What is this?

I was heavily into thrash metal in my early teens, and while I don’t sway very often towards the heavier and more aggressive side of metal these days, I still like many of the artists that I’m already a fan of. So here I am many, many years later, and it’s time to get stuck in with one of the main metal subgenres that has always eluded me; death metal. And what better place to start than one of the most revered and beloved bands of the genre? Death.

But this? Nope! Not into it! I mean, the playing is incredibly intense and these guys are all incredibly proficient at their instruments, with pinpoint precision and accuracy, and there are a couple of decent riffs. But most of it is just way too fast and lacks any kind of melody. Ditto for the vocals. Angry, growly stuff, which is fine if you’re into that, but for me, I need some kind of melodic vocal line that I can sing along to!

Aw well. I tried, and I know I’ll get flayed alive for this review (metal fans can be so annoyingly passionate sometimes, it’s just a review, come on guys, chill!), but there we have it. I gave Death’s ‘Human’ multiple listens, and it’s just not growing on me. What can I say? I’m only human.

DISMAL LAPSE Eon Fragmentation

Album · 2009 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Hailing from Auburn, CA near the state capital city of Sacramento, DISMAL LAPSE is / was a technical death metal band that existed under the moniker Bled from 2001-07 before changing its name. This quintet of Chris Barnum [aka Chris Dann] (vocals, drums), Evan Gravatt (guitar), Corey Parks (bass) and Jason Brehm (bass) have so far released one EP “The Nameless Facless” which was released in 2008 and then this so far only full-length EON FRAGMENTATION which soon followed in 2009.

On “The Nameless Facless,” DISMAL LAPSE cranked out a short EP’s worth of high quality tech death metal that was raw and crude and emulated the old school style of the early 90s with a few technical touches stitched into the fabric. With EON FRAGMENTATION the band stepped up its game manyfold by not only exuding a more sophisticated approach in the technical departments but also by incorporating a more suitable production job that takes some aspects of the muddier tones heard on the EP and adds more polished elements that trade off.

EON FRAGMENTATION is one of those albums that instantly gets your attention if you are in the least bit interested in the technical section of the death metal aisle at your local extreme music supermarket. The band is exquisitely talented and tight delivering one hyperspeed labyrinthine riff after another that can bring many of the technical giants to mind such as, early Obscura, Suffocation, Opressor and newer techies like Augury, Gigan, Necrophagist, Abysmal Dawn or The Faceless. Add to that an overtly jazzy bass delivery from the likes of Athiest and and crushing pummelation of the drumming bombast and it’s easy to fall in love with this amazingly challenging tech death metal.

Two of the tracks, “U-235” and “Clipping The Wings Of Hope” are reworked from the EP only with a much better production and more convoluted technical mastery. While vocalist / drummer Chris Barnum is top of the line as far as his drumming skills go, his growly vocals are fairly standard for the genre which is what brings DISMAL LAPSE’s overall score down just a bit. The focus is on the technical rampaging virtuosity of the musicians and in the process EON FRAGMENTATION doesn’t really bring anything new to the world of tech death metal which has been an ever expanding club of adrenaline fueled technical wizardry.

While there are some short moments of contrast such as the jazzy break of the opener “Addicted To Tomorrow” and a melodic solo in “Divide And Devour” most of the album is an incessant technical speedfest that delivers a relentless brutality albeit in a rather zigzagging manner with staccato jitteriness and other odd time signature contributions. The sparsely laid out melodic guitar solos that bring Necrophagist to mind keep the album from falling into the trap of complete brutal abstraction and offer a pleasant respite through the bantering din.

In the end, DISMAL LAPSE is quite impressive when registering on the technical side of the equation but throughout the album’s 35 minute run really doesn’t deliver anything you haven’t heard before and often better which is why this band most likely didn’t make too dents in the tech death world when this album was released. The missing ingredients here are all on the creativity side and it’s too bad the band hasn’t released any new products because they were clearly on the verge of breaking into the big boys club.

DEVIANT PROCESS Narcissistic Rage

EP · 2011 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Narcissistic Rage" is an EP release by Canadian death metal act Deviant Process. The EP is an independent release from 2011 and it´s the first official release by the band. Deviant Process were formed in 2008 under the Psychic Pain monicker. They changed their name to Deviant Process in 2009.

The music on the 2 track, 15:17 minutes long EP is technical/progressive death metal. Multible tempo changes, complex structures, militant precision playing, and a growling vocalist in front. There´s the occasional atmospheric section thrown in for variation, but the music is predominantly busy and relatively brutal. The songwriting is of a pretty high quality, although Deviant Process haven´t exactly composed material which stands out as particularly original sounding compared to other contemporary artists.

The sound production is powerful and clear sounding, suiting the material well. The musicianship is on a high level on all posts, so all in all "Narcissistic Rage" is a good quality debut release by Deviant Process. Although it´s certainly promising, the lack of an original style is a slight issue, but a 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.

OPPRESSOR GOD Mechanical Manslaughter

EP · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Joining the ranks of a gazillion new bands in the demanding technical death metal world comes OPRESSOR GOD which formed in 2014 in Kingman, Arizona, USA and so far has released this one EP titled MECHANICAL MANSLAUGHTER which came out in 2018. The band consists of Justin Brown (guitar), Gage Vickers (vocals), Tyrel Sanders (bass) and Kevin Wadley (drums).

This band delivers a punishing brutal mix of demanding technically infused death metal with elements of goregrind most notable in the piggy squeals that emerge in between the death growls. This short 21 1/2 minute blistering workout finds the band layering rampaging guitar riffs over hyperspeed blastbeat drumming workouts and an accompanying galloping bass. The subject matter is the expected sci-fi camp and stylistically speaking the band checks off all the required modern day tech death boxes in perfect form.

The atmosphere and production remain eerie while the relentless metal assaults assault with no mercy. The tracks remain melodic but not too sugary sweet with the galloping riffs providing the pace for the melodies to wrap around instead of the other way around. Unfortunately at this point OPPRESSOR GOD despite a noble effort and an undisputed mastery of this demanding style of metal workouts fails to inspire and sounds rather generic as this type of tech death is quite common in the 2010s.

Compared with newer tech death bands like The Zenith Passage and The Faceless, OPPRESSOR GOD delivers a cold and calculated display of tech wizardry but in the end none of these tracks really rise above the glut of similar bands emerging these days and at this point gives no indication that the band will evolve into anything unique. Still though, all is excellently executed and the production job is as good as you could hope. This EP simply lacks memorable compositions that make me want to return.

ATHEIST Elements

Album · 1993 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Elements" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, Florida based technical/progressive metal act Atheist. The album was released through Music for Nations in Europe and through Metal Blade Records in the US in August 1993. It´s the successor to "Unquestionable Presence" from 1991 and features some lineup changes since the predecessor as original drummer Steve Flynn has been replaced by session drummer Josh Greenbaum. Lead vocalist/guitarist Kelly Shaefer had problems with carpal tunnel syndrome (and could therefore only perform rhythm guitars) and as guitarist Rand Burkey had quit, new guitarist Frank Emmi was brought in. Burkey ended up changing his mind though and returned to the fold for the recording of "Elements". "Elements" was therefore recorded with three guitarists in the lineup.

The many lineup changes, the death of bassist Roger Patterson in early 1991 (who was an integral part of the songwriting process on the first two albums), and financial issues actually meant that Atheist had planned to disband after touring in support of "Unquestionable Presence (1991)" but they were bound by their record contract to deliver one more album. Not exactly the most fruitful conditions under which to write and record material for a full-length release but the band soldiered on and delivered "Elements" and even ended up touring in support of the album.

So does "Elements" sound like a rushed swansong album? The answer to that is a resounding no. Nothing could be further from the truth, and "Elements" is another bold and adventurous technical/progressive extreme metal release by Atheist. The jazz/fusion influences have increased and Atheist have also opted to include latin/samba rhythms to their already unique extreme metal sound (most prominently on the fully fledged instrumental latin/fusion track "Samba Briza"). The music still features death- and thrash metal riffs and rhythms, but those are just elements in the soundscape, and it´s almost impossible to correctly label the sonic experience of "Elements". It´s slightly more atmospheric and varied than the material on "Unquestionable Presence (1991)" and less frantic and technically less complex too. The last statement should of course not be read as if this isn´t very technically well played and complex music, but just that the music is a bit slower, a little more vers/chorus oriented, and not as relentlessly fast-paced and energetic as the case was on the predecessor.

Atheist are a very well playing act, and handles everything from multible tempo- and time signature changes, to breaks, to different rhythm styles, and seamlessly combine all stylistic elements into a sound that despite not sounding much like the first two releases, still sound unmistakably like Atheist. Shaefer still has a pretty raw high pitched vocal style, which is probably a bit of an aquired taste, but his performance is strong and unique, suiting the instrumental part of the music perfectly.

Another aquired taste is probably the sound production, which is also a bit different sounding. The band chose producer Mark Pinske (who worked as engineer for Frank Zappa in the 80s) to co-produce the album with them and the result is raw and organic, and sometimes the volumes in the mix on some of the instruments and especially the vocals, mean that the sound is a bit distorted, which is quite odd to hear on a professional sound production. Pinske also produced "Stillborn (1993)" by Malevolent Creation and "Promises Impure (1993)" by Demented Ted, and both of those albums feature a similiar sound production to the production on "Elements". In other words the odd sounding production job isn´t a mistake. The album is intentionally produced this way, which will probably not be to the tastes of all listeners, but on the other hand it´s arguably an unique sound production which go hand and hand with the uniqueness of the music.

"Elements" features 12 tracks and a full playing of 41:40 minutes, and all tracks are well written and intriguing. The above mentioned "Samba Briza", "Displacement", "Fractal Point", and "See You Again" are all shorter interlude tracks, while the remaining tracks are full-on Atheist style technical/progressive metal. I can mention "Green", "Mineral", and the title track as some of the highlights, but there´s not a weak track in sight on "Elements", which just reeks class and high quality in the songwriting department. If the story is true that the album was written, recorded, and mixed in just forty days, it´s a massive achievement by all involved. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.

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