In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.
It seems I can’t get away from it. I didn’t mean to do another round of technical death metal, but the last few weeks have just brought out some killer stuff and it’s been scratching that melodic itch I’ve had lately. Sometimes it works that way: you spend a few months completely immersed in black metal, then it’s scuzzed out stoner rock or some other genre niche for a couple of weeks until your lizard brain responds to something else. Maybe it’s nü-country, who knows? All I know is I’ve been learning to trust what my ears tell me and when it finds something good, to cling to it until the next thing comes along. But for right now it’s still the progressive hodge-podge that is technical death metal so for this edition of Second Circle let’s dive back into the syncopation with the latest offerings from Beyond Creation and The Odious Construct.
Listening to Algorythm, the third album from Quebec’s Beyond Creation, you’d never think they changed bass players. And that’s a weird statement to make: normally in metal you’re always thinking of the guitars, or the vocals, but the draw of the band for me has always been the fretless bass wizardry of Dominic Lapointe, who would wend and wind his way through the most intricate of riffs and passages laid down by Simon Girard and company. Not a step has been lost on Algorythm with Lapointe being replaced by Hugo Doyon-Karout, who along with Kévin Chartré on guitars and Philippe Boucher on drums find a balance between the far flung jazzed out space prog of previous album Earthborn Evolution and the more aggressive attack of debut The Aura.
After a furious beginning with “Entre suffrage et mirage” featuring a wild drum break things settle into a wickedly cool groove with “Surface’s Echoes.” A percussive melody on bass intersects with comped chords and lingering notes before the kick pulses out a syncopated riff that takes the song into a sea of progressive aggression. Vocally Girard shows some great dynamics, moving from high pitched blackened snarls to more guttural death growls. “Ethereal Kingdom” treads a similar path, the bass both a percussive tapped instrument as well as a swelling beast. When the bridge kicks in half way through the way the bass solos against the harmonized guitar leads is crushing in its lushness. Lest you worry about Algorythm’s lack of punch, “In Adversity” comes in to show you how heavy this music can get. All in all Beyond Creation have crafted a truly balanced album that doesn’t sacrifice any power in its quest to push through the normal constraints of technical death metal and provide something that moves smoothly instead of stutters in fits and bursts.
Now when I think of tech death, this is much more what comes to mind for me. Odious Construct’s second EP Shrine of the Obscene is a propulsive blizzard of technical death metal. Flurries of robotic drums carry forward a series of twisting, labyrinth-like riffs accompanied by heavy atmospheric keys and synths that manage to bring the music out of the morass of like-minded but weak willed bands and inject a modicum of identity into the songs.
Opening track “Vortex of Self” revels in the kind of spiraling riffs, neoclassical runs and knot-tying percussion that serve as touchstones to the genre, but the heavy synths bring a slightly more gothic flair to the song. It’s this dramatic vibe along with the expert execution and attention to song craft that consistently stands out on Shrine of the Obscene over the course of its 20 minute run time. There’s an eerie, cinematic quality on “They Came Through the Mirrors” when it isn’t busy bursting your brain with solo after inventive solo. The keyboards that punctuate “Cyanide Eyes” never put the song over the top, despite sounding more and more gleefully insane as the song goes on. Top to bottom The Odious Construct keep things ridiculously tight and make Shrine of the Obscene a killer package of what tech death should sound like in this day and age.
The last two months have seen a huge glut of great metal coming out, and October seems to be no different. Whatever you do, don’t let these two albums escape your ears.