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 | 153 ratings
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DEATH The Sound of Perseverance Album Cover The Sound of Perseverance
DEATH
4.39 | 112 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 | 102 ratings
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BEYOND CREATION The Aura Album Cover The Aura
BEYOND CREATION
4.43 | 15 ratings
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ATHEIST Unquestionable Presence Album Cover Unquestionable Presence
ATHEIST
4.27 | 62 ratings
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CRYPTOPSY None So Vile Album Cover None So Vile
CRYPTOPSY
4.31 | 28 ratings
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NILE What Should Not be Unearthed Album Cover What Should Not be Unearthed
NILE
4.43 | 12 ratings
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OBSCURA Omnivium Album Cover Omnivium
OBSCURA
4.23 | 34 ratings
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DEATH Human Album Cover Human
DEATH
4.17 | 105 ratings
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NILE Those Whom the Gods Detest Album Cover Those Whom the Gods Detest
NILE
4.22 | 30 ratings
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ATHEIST Elements Album Cover Elements
ATHEIST
4.18 | 50 ratings
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NOCTURNUS AD Paradox

Album · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
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Warthur
Once upon a time there was Nocturnus, who put out a couple of really solid technical death metal albums in the form of The Key and Thresholds before original founder Mike Browning and the rest of the group. Then there was After Death, Mike's next group, which took its name from a song from The Key and allowed Mike to keep his hand in the game.

Now there's Nocturnus AD, After Death having evolved into the full-fledged Nocturnus successor group they'd always had the potential to be. With Nocturnus themselves having been broken up for over a decade, it seems reasonable enough to assume that if Browning's former comrades there had intended to do anything with the name, they'd have done it by now. As it is, the field is clear for Browning to reconfigure After Death to deliver his own vision for where Nocturnus might have gone under his own direction.

If the band name weren't enough of the clue, the cover art should give away what the angle is here: yes, this might not be called "The Key Part 2: Death Metal Boogaloo", but thematically and stylistically speaking it's pretty much following on the footsteps of the Nocturnus debut album. (Yes, the time-travelling killer robot is back, and this time it's hanging out with Cthulhu.)

It's another technical death metal tour de force from Browning, who once again acts as both drummer and lead vocalist. If his drumming is a little prominent in the mix, that's all to the good, because his drums sound absolutely superb without taking anything away from the rest of the band. Despite having added blast beats to his bag of tricks, he's largely working in a style close to that of The Key, and if you really enjoyed that album and want more of the same I'd say that this hits that mark closer than any of the subsequent Nocturnus or After Death releases ever did.

ACID DEATH Random's Manifest

Album · 2000 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Random's Manifest" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Greek technical/progressive death/thrash metal act Acid Death. The album was released through Black Lotus Records in the spring of 2000. Acid Death formed in 1989 and released a couple of demos, a single, and split with Avulsed, before releasing their debut full-length studio album "Pieces of Mankind" in 1998. They disbanded in 2001, but not before releasing "Random's Manifest" in 2000. Acid Death reunited in 2011 and have released new material since. There´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as guitarist Themis K. has been replaced by Nikos Andreadakis.

Stylistically the material on "Random's Manifest" pretty much continues the progressive/technical death/thrash metal which was initiated on "Pieces of Mankind (1998)". It´s music highly focused on technical playing. Time signature changes, challenging death/thrash riffs, the occasional jazz/fusion part, and adventurous song structures are some of the characteristics of the music. "Random's Manifest" is a relatively diverse release with both harder edged aggressive sections, atmospheric sections, and melodic sections. Artists like Coroner, Sadist, and Death are valid references, but Acid Death aren´t copycats, and don´t really sound like anyone else in particular.

"Random's Manifest" features a decent sound production, but it could have been more powerful. The musicianship is on a high level on all posts, but the raw/growling vocals are a bit powerless to my ears. They get the job done, but they aren´t exactly caustic in nature. There´s sparse use of clean vocals on the album too, but it´s not enough to make much impact.

Upon conclusion "Random's Manifest" leaves me with a similar impression to the impression I got after listening to "Pieces of Mankind (1998)". It´s a good quality technical/progressive death/thrash metal release, and especially fans who favor technical playing and adventurous song structures over catchiness and hooks should be able to find quite a lot of listening satisfaction here. To my ears more focus on the songwriting and memorability of the tracks and less on the technical playing and creative songwriting ideas would have made the album a little more interesting. There´s nothing wrong with highly technical music, and artists like for example Atheist, Cynic, and Watchtower pull off playing very technical music and still successfully write memorable material, but Acid Death just aren´t in that league of players. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.

ACID DEATH Pieces of Mankind

Album · 1998 · Technical Death Metal
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UMUR
"Pieces of Mankind" is the debut full-length studio album by Greek technical/progressive death/thrash metal act Acid Death. The album was released through Metal Mad Music in October 1998. Acid Death formed in 1989 and released a couple of demos, a single, and split with Avulsed, before releasing "Pieces of Mankind". They disbanded in 2001, but not before releasing their sophomore studio album "Random's Manifest" in 2000. Acid Death reunited in 2011 and have released new material since.

The 1990s were ripe with pioneering technical/progressive death and thrash metal acts like Atheist, Cynic, Death, Pestilence, and Gorguts (just to mention some of the best known acts on the scene, because there are a host of other lesser known contemporary acts out there too). Some successful and some who didn´t make as great waves, and some who have only been recognized retrospectively. The fact is a sub genre was born in those years, which influenced several other artists to produce music in a similar vein. Most of the artists mentioned above are "first wave" technical/progressive death/thrash metal acts, but although Acid Death were formed in 1989, the fact that they didn´t release an album until 1998 makes them more of a "second wave" technical/progressive death/thrash metal acts.

By the time they released "Pieces of Mankind", the interest in the genre had diminished greatly compared to the interest in the early 1990s, which is probably one of the reasons why Acid Death aren´t one of the best known artists on the scene. Another is the quality of the music on the 10 track, 44:45 minutes long album, which is certainly high, but doesn´t quite reach the heights of the top notch artists in the genre. I´d put Acid Death in the same second tier catagory as artists like Sadist and Alarum, who arguably released some great quality music, but who also didn´t quite reach the heights of the artists mentioned in the above paragraph.

Stylistically the music on "Pieces of Mankind" is technical/progressive death/thrash metal. Lead vocalist/bassist Savvas Betinis has a raw voice and relatively powerful delivery, which sometimes fall under the growling vocal style catagory, but predominantly sounds more like raw thrash metal style vocals. The tracks are relatively complex featuring both multible tempo- and time signature changes and quite a few adventurous compositional details. Fusion influenced drumming, intriguing death/thrash riffs, skillfully played guitar solos, and some atmospheric parts to make it all a bit more varied. That´s the basis of the music.

For all the good intentions, the high level musicianship, and the decent sounding production, the songwriting unfortunately ends up bringing the listening experience down a bit. It´s not a major issue, but the material really aren´t that memorable. The vocals are also a bit one-dimensional and emotionless, and while there are several great musical moments on the album, it´s still like there are far too many of the riffs and the song sections which are unremarkable. The tracks simply lack hooks and killer riffs. It´s still an entertaining release, and especially the high level musicianship (and in particular the fusion influenced drumming) is really impressive, so there are enough quality here to warrant a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

CRYPTOPSY Blasphemy Made Flesh

Album · 1994 · Technical Death Metal
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siLLy puPPy
With a debut album that appeared in 1994, it may seem that CRYPTOSY came late to the death metal party but this early pioneer of old school death metal which emerged from Montreal, Quebec actually started out as early as 1988. In April of that year drummer Mike Atkin, guitarist Steve Thibault and vocalist Dan Greening better known as Lord Worm formed a band called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but quickly decided that the moniker was not metal enough and switched to the more suitable Necrosis. Bassist John Todd then joined and then like any good death metal band, released a bunch of demos and went through turbulent changes. Around 1993 Kevin Weagle joined on bass to release the demo “Ungentle Exhumation” ended up on Gore Records and then caught the attention of the German label Invasion Records.

Invasion Records folded due to financial difficulties and the big shakeup occurred. Weagle was replaced by Martin Fergusson, Atkin was replaced by drummer Flo Mounier and and lead guitarist John Levasseur also jumped on board. This left guitarist Steve Thibault and vocalist Lord Worm as the only founding members and the lineup that recorded the band’s debut full-length release BLASPHEMY MADE FLESH, the only album with this lineup as Fergusson would leave after the tour and become replaced by Eric Langlois who would define the classic CRYPTOSY sound. A lot had changed in the world of death metal since the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder days. Death metal started out as a more brutal form of thrash metal with more depraved vocals but by 1994 when this album debuted the style had seen the advent of the extreme brutality ushered in by Suffocation as well as a new form of technical wizardry pioneered by later Death releases, Atheist and Cynic. CRYPTOSY adopted both aspects.

BLASPHEMY MADE FLESH in many ways is simply a more spruced up take on early death metal and in the process debuted at a time when the death metal scene was starting to go stale. While CRYPTOSY checked off all the death metal attributes such as heavy down-tuned guitar riffs at a million miles per second, incessant percussive mania from Mounier and the depraved guttural growls of Lord Worm, the band had obviously paid attention to what was going on in the death metal underground. While not so technical sounding compared to modern standards, CRYPTOSY took the old school death metal chugs, added a few Morbid Angel squeals and created an even more labyrinthine parade of caustic distortion fueled rampages that ranged from spot on tightness with the instrumental interplay to more sloppy segments of raw lo-fi ferocity. Album number one was made on a budget and the production as a result is quite primitive but given the ugly bestial nature of this album, it actually works quite well IMHO.

What’s unique for BLASPHEMY and an annoyance for some is the excessive use of snare drums for a percussive beat however personally it doesn’t bother me so much. While incessant, even dissonant metal rage is the norm, there is an underlying melodic flow to the compositions which are only exposed as the veil thins such as at the beginning of “Serial Messiah” which begins with a short keyboard run as well as the wailing guitar solos that sporadically pop up offering neoclassical wankery in melancholic minor-key melodies most pronounced on the album’s closer “Pathological Frolic” which would be a major influence on future artists like Necrophagist. Also interesting is how this album sounds a few years older than it is as the chugging riffs often sound like peak era Pantera on album’s like “Cowboys From Hell” with that groove metal swagger. Possibly due to the build up of material.

All in all, i find BLASPHEMY MADE FLESH to be quite the competent debut album with an incessant primeval rawness that made early death metal so fucking cool. The tracks zigzag around like a flaming colony of lemmings jumping over the cliff and into the sea and its not too difficult to hear why Mounier is considered one of the fastest drummers of the era as his frenetic percussive bombast is the backbone for the intense rhythmic drive which the guitars and bass are merely under his gravitational pull. While CRYPTOSY would continue on and see more changes with more polished albums, this one stands tall and proud as the fierce DIY project that generated a wealth of catchy cool death metal tracks straddling the old school by then traditions and pioneering the brave new world of tech death laced with brutality. Solid. And yeah the original freaky eye album cover is the best one!

VALE OF PNATH Accursed

EP · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
UMUR
"Accursed" is an EP release by US, Colorado based death metal act Vale of Pnath. The EP was released through Willowtip Records in May 2019. Vale of Pnath formed in 2006, released an EP in 2008, their debut full-length studio album "The Prodigal Empire" in 2011, and their sophomore studio album "II" in 2016. Since then there haven´t been any new releases, but there have also been quite a few lineup changes since "II (2016)", which is a possible explaination for the three years between "II (2016)" and "Accursed". Drummer Eric W. Brown is only credited here as a session player, guitarist Eloy Montes has been replaced by Harrison Patuto and bassist Alan Parades has been replaced by Andy Torres. The only permanent members remaining from the lineup who recorded "II (2016)" are guitarist Vance Valenzuela and lead vocalist Reece Deeter.

"Accursed" marks a bit of a musical shift for Vale of Pnath, who on their previous releases were a technical/progressive death metal act in the vein (and quality) of artists like Obscura, Beyond Creation, and Augury. Stylistically "Accursed" is still technical/progressive death metal, but it´s often an artist like The Black Dahlia Murder I´m reminded of instead of the above mentioned artists. The vocal style is now predominantly higher pitched screaming and only occasionally growling, and the music is very melodic and often features neo-classical touches (which isn´t something new in the musical universe of Vale of Pnath though).

Vale of Pnath are very skilled musicians and the speed and dexterity of the playing is impressive. Lighting fast riffs/leads and high level technical drumming. Vale of Pnath were always successful creating dark sci-fi atmospheres and that continues on "Accursed", which features a dark and raw sound, which suits the material well. The songwriting is generally very intriguing. Just the first couple of minutes of "The Darkest Gate" (which is the first regular track on the EP after the short atmospheric opener "Shadow and Agony") features multible musical changes and changes in pace, and Vale of Pnath are obviously skilled composers, who understand how to structure musical elements and ideas to the greatest effect.

When all the positives are said (and there are many positives to mention), "Accursed" isn´t the most original sounding release. Vale of Pnath may be skilled composers and a technically very well playing act, but they lack that last songwriting uniqueness to set them fully apart from other artists in a similar vein. "Accursed" is still a high quality release though and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

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