Gone are the theatrics and bombast of previous entries; gone are the constant choir and strings sections. In their place is a pure album that is melodic, technical, and groovy. The finger-style interludes are more thematically embedded. A new bassist absolutely destroys. The first two minutes makes the opening pitch: welcome to Apoptosis, a perfect Allegaeon album.
If you squint, it’s not too hard to see the roots of this album scattered across their discography. This album is different, but not so different that it leaves you scratching your head. Where previous albums were constantly technical, this album dials it back. Sweep picking and fast passages are there, but significantly less so. Melodic elements take the forefront and really shine on tracks like “Stellar Tidal Disruption” and the title track. There are riffs which, heard at a distance, could be mistaken for a tune by any number of melodic death metal greats.
This album is confident, the work of a band with nothing to prove and firing on all cylinders. Tracks are tight and to the point, while solos are soulful and emotional instead of competing for Most Technical Guitarist of the Year. Even the lone acoustic track takes a breath; instead of being an out of place barrage of flamenco fingerstyle, it’s more restrained and thought out compared to the showmanship of previous albums. For a band whose lineup has changed almost completely in three albums, it sure feels like they’ve landed on a winning combination.
What I love most about Apoptosis is how it captures the energy and momentum of all their previous highs, while leaving all the accoutrements by the wayside. Only one track has a stringed intro, ‘Metaphobia’ makes excellent use of choral vocals to drive home what could have been black metal screams. And throughout the whole album, there’s a constant groove to it that only shows up sporadically on previous albums. (“1.618” and “Proponent for Sentience III – The Extermination” come to mind).
Of course, I can’t not mention the vocals. Allegaeon flirted with clean vocals on Proponent For Sentience, but on Apoptosis they really shine. Used sparingly but effectively, they make tracks like “Tsunami and Submergence” pop when leveraged against melodic sections. Yet like the other elements of the album, the vocals are balanced. Whereas clean vocals make a fresh play, so too do even more extreme vocals. Slam gutturals make an appearance, and while they tend to be polarizing, I find that their sparing use lends a brutal novelty that works well. This is yet another evolutionary improvement to their sound, and the result drives home the two extremes which feature prominently in the music.
Those extremes are tied together by the central theme of the album. Apoptosis itself is the process of programmed cellular death, which in turn leads to further development. So one could interpret the theme as death and rebirth, and I find that the flow of songs reinforces this. Songs alternate between aggressive and uplifting and the sense of destruction followed by creation permeates every moment.
Add to all this the fact that the production is a notch above their other albums, and it’s hard to see Apoptosis as anything other than perfection. Between the ultra clean guitar work (featuring what I can only describe as the perfect platonic ideal of tone), the bass ripping through with regularity, and intense drumming, this album is easily a front runner for my album of the year. Head and shoulders above all their other efforts, Allegaeon have created something outstanding. This album should be on everyone’s playlist.