In a world where multi-adjective sub genres are multiplying like, well…sub genres (“Hey! Check out my new porno-grind-tech-ambient-electro-doom band! It djents!”) you can forgive the alarm bells when you read about a band straddling the line between progressive and technical death metal. Am I getting a quintillion notes at 260 bpm over a drum that sounds like ADHD pencil tapping? Or am I just getting some keyboards? Somewhere between the two lie an ideal, and debut full length Persistence of Thought by Pennsylvania’s Burial in the Sky nails it, exercising restraint and emphasizing melody without sacrificing the ridiculous chops that are par for the course with this music.
The leap made between Persistence of Thought and previous EP Transcendence is massive, not least because the new album benefits from real drums courtesy of Decrepit Birth’s Samus Paulicelli, who rather than mimic already established beats took the music and wrote/arranged his own tracks. Not content to simply punctuate the guitar work of primary members William Okronglis and James Tomedi, Paulicelli moves between the rhythms, deftly switching from pummeling fury to softer syncopations when required. It’s the mark of someone who knows when to show off and when to support the tune, and it would go nowhere if it didn’t lay the foundation for a powerhouse performance in both playing and song craft by Okronglis and Tomedi. On Persistence of Thought the duo have reached a level of ambition in their songwriting that is confident enough to rely on the essence of each song rather than overstuff it with a million technical flourishes that would undermine the work as a whole.
Which isn’t to say the technical chops aren’t there in spades. Opening tracks “Entry I-III” serve as a new introduction to what Burial in the Sky can accomplish, a suite of songs that combine technical savagery and softer ambient passages that recall with its atmospheric keyboards and guitar lines an almost black gaze feel (see, now I’m complicit in acts of sub genre sabotage). Nothing is lost in the crystal production that keeps every note clear and concise, even when blasting ahead at a breakneck pace. Things become even more blistering on the second half of the album, but the standout in Persistence of Thought is the fourth track, “Anchors.” Blasting between the two extremes, it comes the closest in a single song to embody everything great about Burial in the Sky: soaring melodies and solos, incredible drumming, beautiful atmospherics and a final minute that just makes you want to grin from ear to ear as you thrash your head against the keyboard writing this review.
With record labels and genre labels devoting more and more space to cramming in as many adjectives as notes in the technical death metal genre, Burial in the Sky is a band intent on demonstrating how it’s supposed to be done: with restraint, concision, and an unfettered blast of passion that comes through in every note choice. Persistence of Thought comes late in the year, but it comes just in time to make me second guess myself the next time I see 23 adjectives used to describe a genre. Either way, this is a fantastic album.