Posts Tagged ‘ technical Death Metal ’

Album of the Week 09-2019: Sisters Of Suffocation – Humans Are Broken


Death metal that is both clever and varied without losing any of the aggression that is essential to the genre is hard enough to come by these days. That is exactly why it is good to have albums like Sisters Of Suffocation’s sophomore album ‘Humans Are Broken’ every once in a while. The music is complex, but not showy or hard to follow and while there are plenty of melodic touches and unexpected twists to surprise the listener, Sisters Of Suffocation never forgets the importance of brutality. ‘Humans Are Broken’ sets the bar pretty high for death metal in 2019.

Prior to the recordings of the album, Sisters Of Suffocation went through a couple of line-up changes. These changes have certainly had their effect on the outcome. New drummer and lone brother Kevin van den Heiligenberg makes his presence known through his powerful and varied drumming – you will never hear him play the same type of groove for too long – as well as his explosive and surprisingly natural drum sound. In addition, Emmelie Herwegh joined as a second guitarist, causing fellow axewoman and main composer Simone van Straten to really run with the idea of having two guitars. There are significantly more solos and harmonies here than on ‘Anthology Of Curiosities’ two years ago.

Another big plus about ‘Humans Are Broken’ is the amount of variety in material. Sisters Of Suffocation really explores all corners of death metal here, from the almost Bay Area thrash metal nature of the riffs in ‘What We Create’ right down to the subtle nods to black metal in more atmospheric tracks like ‘Liar’ and ‘The Next Big Thing’. Vocalist Els Prins has a few melodic outbursts here and there, but the music never veers into full-on melodic death metal or wimpy metalcore territory. Check out ‘The Objective’ for an example; the song is full of melodic guitar and vocal work, but the intensity does not let up for even a second.

Of course, anyone looking for a punch in the gut is served well by ‘Humans Are Broken’ as well. The absolutely annihilating main riff to ‘Blood On Blood’ will do just that and despite its progressive nature, there is plenty of pummeling riff work in the ‘Souls To Deny’-era Suffocation-esque ‘The Machine’, as well as what is probably the strongest guitar solo on the album. ‘Wolves’ packs so many ideas that it’s almost impossible to believe that the track is only three minutes long. And yet, the song never becomes disjointed, instead opting for a dark, immersive atmosphere.

While many younger death metal bands are trying to adhere to a certain trend or style, the main concern of Sisters Of Suffocation seems to be to write a good song and perform the hell out of it. And that is exactly how it is supposed to be. For some fans of certain subgenres within death metal, ‘Humans Are Broken’ may be too little of “their” thing, but really, everyone who likes their death metal interesting, slightly technical and somewhat melodic, the album is a must. If this line-up manages to stay together, I cannot see anything standing in the way of a bright future for Sisters Of Suffocation.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Objective’, ‘Wolves’, ‘What We Create’

Album of the Week 04-2019: Solstice – Solstice


Some bands are known for the musicians that play with them rather than the actual music than they play. Those who have heard of Solstice, will most likely know them as the band Rob Barrett played with prior to joining Cannibal Corpse, though drummer Alex Marquez and bassist Mark Van Erp are familiar names in the Floridian death metal scene as well. It is worth giving their music a spin though, as especially their self-titled debut album is an engaging piece of reasonably technical thrash metal, filled to the brim with all the precise, aggressive playing one could wish for.

Despite all of the death metal connections of the Floridian band, the death metal element in their music is largely limited to Marquez’ occasional blastbeats. If anything, hardcore seems to be a bigger influence on Solstice. Plenty of blunt force, but more importantly, the riffs are thick and beefy even at their fastest and most technical, which is of course helped by Scott Burns’ production. Also, Barrett’s aggressive barks have a distinct hardcore vibe. The overall sound is not unlike the likes of Demolition Hammer and Exhorder, with maybe some Malevolent Creation, with whom three musicians on the record have played, thrown in for good measure.

Riffs aplenty on ‘Solstice’, but where the band truly outshines its contemporaries is that the songs are surprisingly well-written. In this style, it is quite easy to get lost in a jungle of engaging, but poorly connecting riffs. Solstice’s songs generally make excellent use of dynamics, with especially the ever-changing rhythmic feel of the songs accounting for a longer attention span than with many equally technical, yet compositionally weaker bands. ‘Netherworld’ in particular has a great climactic build-up by starting slow and atmospheric and leaving room for the chorus and Dennis Muñoz’ fantastic guitar solo when it needs room to breathe.

Because of the way the songs are written – not a lot of melody, high tempos – the highlights of the album really boil down to which riffs you prefer. Personally, I really like how ‘Cataclysmic Outbursts’ unfolds from its almost teasing intro to its multitude of Dark Angel-inspired riffs, while ‘Plasticized’ is quite catchy and has a half-time middle section not unlike Suffocation would do on ‘Pierced From Within’. Another true highlight is how opening track ‘Transmogrified’ toys with different time feels even within its first 30 seconds, effectively giving you a pretty good impression of if you’re going to like the album or not.

Ultimately, only the Carnivore cover ‘S.M.D.’ is a bit of a weak spot on ‘Solstice’. The cover is done well, but the song lacks the sophistication of the rest of the album. Because writing an excellent technical thrash song obviously is something you don’t have to teach Solstice. The album definitely transcends the “curio because of the musicians involved” tag, as it is superior to many of the albums the involved musicians would later be involved in. I don’t say that to dismiss the works of Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation or Monstrosity, ‘Solstice’ is just that good.

Recommended tracks: ‘Netherworld’, ‘Transmogrified’, ‘Cataclysmic Outbursts’

Album of the Week 27-2018: Obscura – Cosmogenesis


With the increasing popularity of nerd culture, it is not too surprising that there has been a veritable boom of technical and progressive death metal bands a couple of years ago. Very few managed to impress me as much as Obscura did, however, as the German quartet seems to forego pointless displays of virtuosity and aim at an immersive atmosphere and a strong sense of melodicism instead. In that regard, ‘Cosmogenesis’ was a breath of fresh air when it was released nine years ago. And though they have consistently released great music since, it is still stands as their best work.

Obscura’s music contains a lot of the elements that made Death such an amazing band a decade and a half earlier, but without deliberately trying to copy Chuck Schuldiner’s work. Sure, frontman Steffen Kummerer has repeatedly admitted to “totally ripping off Death” with ‘Incarnated’, but connaisseurs would never mistake Obscura for Death. The latter obviously laid the groundwork for this type of unpredictable, technically challenging extreme metal with fretless bass work, but the uptempo, insistent twin riffs are a characteristic that is quite unique to Obscura and Death never sounded this spacey. The conceptual focus on German philosophers creates this unique universe as well.

Another thing that makes Obscura favorable to most other bands in their genre is that they understand the concept of dynamics. Hannes Grossmann is technically capable of spending the entire album sounding like he’s falling down the stairs with admirable rhythmic precision, but instead he chooses his moments wisely and lets the music breathe when it has do. ‘Desolate Spheres’, for instance, is a dense song, but suddenly calms down during Christian Münzner’s fusion-esque solo to prepare for the final burst. The instrumental ‘Orbital Elements’ also makes excellent use of strategically placed, more subdued passages.

However, Obscura’s main asset is that they can combine intensity, brutality and technicality without sacrificing even the slightest bit of any of those. Opening track and audience favorite ‘The Anticosmic Overload’ is virtuosic, yet vicious, while there is more happening melodically than on an entire album of most of their peers. ‘Nospheres’ has some of the most violent riffing on the album, but also an incredible middle section with Kummerer and Münzner at their harmonic best, while closer ‘Centric Flow’ has an incredible finale that could just as easily have been on a classic eighties heavy metal record. ‘Incarnated’ could have been on a progressive power metal record, had it not been for Kummerer’s aggressive barks.

Though I often claim that I hate technical death metal, I would not be as averse to the genre as a whole if more bands had an approach similar to Obscura’s. For Obscura, their compositions are not a vehicle for their virtuosity. Rather, virtuosity is a means to increase the power of their songs when needed. The Germans – at the time with a Dutch bassist – are just as comfortable just letting the inherent aggression of their music take the lead. And isn’t that the characteristic that made metal so appealing in the first place?

Recommended tracks: ‘Incarnated’, ‘Centric Flow’, ‘Universe Momentum’

Album of the Week 20-2016: Vektor – Terminal Redux


Despite frequently being labeled as a Voivod rip-off, Vektor is one of the most unique bands in contemporary Thrash Metal. Sure, they borrow heavily from the Sci-Fi themes and dissonant chord work of their Canadian heroes, but Vektor plays (much) faster, writes more intricate material and adds quite a few traces of extreme Metal to the mix. After a five year break, the band finally released their third album ‘Terminal Redux’ and boy, it’s a good one! Strangely, it is simultaneously Vektor’s most progressive and their most accessible album. Longer songs, but also stronger hooks. Unbelievable, but the absolute truth.

It’s also their best produced album yet and that contributes significantly to the listenability of ‘Terminal Redux’. Unlike many modern Thrash bands, Vektor’s riffs are generally located relatively high on the necks of their guitars, so the fact that the sound isn’t quite as trebly as before really is a step forward. The riffs have more balls than ever before, Blake Anderson’s snares no longer blast through your ear drums and David DiSanto’s lead vocals – a perfect blend of Dani Filth and Sadus frontman Darren Travis – suddenly don’t feel quite as shrill as they did on the first two albums anymore.

However, none of this would be relevant if the actual music wasn’t so damn good. Technical Death Metal bands should pay close attention to Vektor. Not only because they successfully incorporated the best aspects of Chuck Schuldiner’s Death – the vortical guitar leads and the full-on riff assault – into their music, but also because they know how to write a highly complex song with what feels like a hundred riffs without ever sacrificing the hungry energy and boundless aggression essential to Metal. No matter how technical and intricate the compositions get, Vektor’s main purpose is still to get you to bang your head.

While ‘Terminal Redux’ is best listened to in one sitting – believe me, those 73 minutes are over before you know it – there are still some standout moments. Naturally, those are generally the ones that deviate somewhat style-wise. The relatively straightforward ‘Ultimate Artificer’, for instance, is one of the most memorable cuts on the album. Easily the most notable song is the highly Pink Floyd-esque ‘Collapse’, which despite a few monumental twin guitar harmony climaxes is largely built on beautiful clean guitar parts. Speaking of which, the clean guitars are better and larger in number than ever. ‘Cygnus Terminal’, ‘Pillars Of Sand’ and the mammoth 13 and a half minute closer ‘Recharging The Void’ all alternate their intense riff work with clean bits. The instrumental ‘Mountains Above The Sun’ even consists almost entirely of them.

There’s a little something for anyone here: the almost unending riffing violence should please any Thrash Metal fan, the unpredictable songwriting should be a delight to any progressive Metalhead and the vocals and drums may even draw in some people who generally confine themselves to the more extreme segments of the genre. And what is most amazing is that they tackle every one of these approaches without ever compromising the others. That is quite an impressive feat. From the day I first heard them, I have labeled Vektor as promising. ‘Terminal Redux’ is the transition to simply excellent.

Recommended tracks: ‘Collapse’, ‘Ultimate Artificer’, ‘Psychotropia’

Album of the Week 06-2016: Obscura – Akróasis


Contemporary Death Metal worries me. Many bands these days either make Melodeath without balls, dizzying technical Death Metal without any semblance of structure to hold on to or something so buried in groove that there’s none of the aggression the genre is known for. From the beginning of their career, Germany’s Obscura has managed to be aggressive, melodic, complex and somewhat catchy all at the same time, which is exactly why I consider them to be one of the best contemporary Metal bands. And despite major lineup changes, frontman Steffen Kümmerer has maintained the band’s dynamic sound on their brand new album ‘Akróasis’.

While the album still sounds like Obscura, the band does steer their course in a slightly different direction. The influence of Chuck Schuldiner’s Death is more than obvious – though Obscura has never sounded as much as a blatant copy as Kümmerer’s other band Thulcandra does to Dissection – but Sebastian Lanser’s drum patterns are less busy than those of his renowned predecessor Hannes Grossmann and the first contributions bassist Linus Klausensitzer did to the band’s songwriting (‘The Monist’ and ‘Ten Sepiroth’ in particular) take the band to a downtuned aggression previously unheard of. Luckily without forsaking their signature melodicism.

As a result, ‘Akróasis’ immediately sounds like Obscura, but may take a few spins to fully reveal itself. Not unlike on Textures’ new record, the band has made the atmospheric sections blend with the heavier – and extremely memorable – riffs and the dynamics that are highlighted through increased use of the acoustic guitar make the record a pleasant surprise even after you’ve heard it several times. And then it’s an amazing pleasure to blast through the pleasant aggression of opening track ‘Sermon Of The Seven Suns’ or the smack in the face that is every new riff in ‘Perpetual Infinity’.

Somewhat obligated if you’re a band with strong progressive tendencies is a long suite that moves through many different sections. Fifteen minute closing track ‘Weltseele’ is the first instance where Obscura dives into that head first and they do it exceptionally well. Easily the best song on the record, it builds from a tranquil intro toward a more typical Obscura song, before incorporating beautifully arranged strings into the second half of the composition. It’s an unlikely, but ultimately rewarding mixture of violent riffing and ominous atmosphere without ever turning into a virtuoso showoff piece for anyone, which is an admirable feat by itself.

‘Akróasis’ is somewhat harder to get into than breakthrough album ‘Cosmogenesis’ was, but if you like your Death Metal melodic and on a technically high level, this is an album not to be missed. Obscura continues to take intelligent Death Metal further down the path that Chuck Schuldiner paved for them and they do it well. Kümmerer is the last one to deny Schuldiner’s influence; I remember him saying “we totally ripped off Death for this one” before playing ‘Incarnated’ in concert once. But I see them as more than mere copies; Obscura is the evolution of technical, yet highly melodic Death Metal. If that’s what you like, ‘Akróasis’ is strongly recommended.

Recommended tracks: ‘Weltseele’, ‘Sermon Of The Seven Suns’, ‘The Monist’