One of the things I love about the beginning of the year is not being inundated with a veritable rain of releases. A lot of the majors hold back until the Spring, and you get a chance to breathe, refresh the batteries and dive into some of the smaller releases that can really take you by surprise. Plus I have a new set of studio monitors and I wanted to break them in, so what better way to do that than with a chunky slice of progressive/technical death metal courtesy of Samskaras and their new EP Asunder.
Canadian technical-death (but not “tech death” if you catch my drift…) outfit Samskaras were already featured in the Jan 15-21 edition of Initial Descent, but their razor sharp execution on the genre warrant a more in depth take. Coming out of Montreal and traveling a path similarly walked by legends like Gorguts and Neuraxis, the band started with two singles in released in late 2014. Both “Red Hill” and “Consecrate” follow the tech-death blueprint without being slavish to it, featuring narrative lyrics weaving biographical tales of inner conflict and awakening accompanied by the punishing drum work of Alexandre Dupras and the dizzying guitar and multifaceted vocal delivery of Eric Burnet, who also handles bass and songwriting duties.
The Asunder EP takes all those qualities and sharpens them to a fine edge. Featuring a killer production upgrade thanks to Christian Donaldson (Cryptopsy) there’s a much fuller attack to the tunes than on the previous singles. Focusing in their words on “the positive and negative paths that humans can take” each of the four songs open up new dynamics the earlier songs can’t match. Opening with “Fuelscape” Asunder charges forth with a blast before settling into a more nuanced march that syncopates into a fury of ideas centering on mankind’s destruction of the planet for oil. Sound a little too heady? Don’t worry: the music carries its own weight of technical progressive death ideas that invite multiple head-banging sessions to catch what’s happening. “Solar” moves from solo bass to a series of harmonic arpeggios that explode into rapid-fire bursts of notes that move with an organic fluidity that keeps the song vibrant and alive. “Separate” features a clean vocal passage that recalls some of the best of Between the Buried and Me and is the standout track for me, while closer “Conquerer” ends the EP in a frenetic burst of power.
It’s easy in this type of music to get lost in an attempt to show off how proficient a musician you are, and as a result sacrifice song craft for technical wizardry. Samskaras keep the emphasis firmly on making the songs work, and Asunder comes across as an incredibly assured debut. It’s yet another indication that there’s something amazing in the water being drunk by our friends in the Great White North, and more proof there’s an incredible amount of quality metal lurking under the shadows of the bigger players. Check this one out.