Opticleft – Step Aside (2017) – The debut album from tech-deathers Opticleft is starting to sound like the problem I’m noticing with all modern tech-death. This stuff used to be great in the beginning, but now it’s all about wankery and brutality, which the kids love but are eating up like a box of Mike and Ike’s. This is just one of the several albums that I see decorated on their spotify playlists, most looking like alien landscapes. I guess it’s hear that I’m also going to announce my displeasure with this genre as of late and I’ll be letting Jake Butler and his team over at Metal Purgatory Media cover it, since the guy goes nuts for this kind of stuff. The affiliate banner’s on our wall, so maybe he’ll be able to give a better description. I won’t say that the performance is bad, but it just reminds me of a lot of acts like Necrophagist, Gorguts and Quo Vadis, who I’d rather jam out instead. The vocal performance is quite strong and the guitars seems to move from one structure to the next, as if there’s powdered adderall on the strings. The disc is quite short and it has already moved to the fifth cut like Super Sonic on amphetamines. I feel like a huffing and puffing old man Mario when I cover this kind of stuff, and it seems to me that Opticleft and all of these other modern tech-bands have taken all the elements of heavy metal and thrown them into a giant blender to be easily digested by today’s generation of short-attention spans, created entirely by social media (as recently explained by the creators of all this crazy stuff, Google the interviews). I haven’t really heard these guys discussed in any circles, but I’m quite sure that they have fans and put on a heck of a performance regardless. I don’t think there’s any topping of Gorguts’ Obscura for me and consider that the peak of this music, as the record just felt like some sort of audial Gordian knot. I still can’t wrap my head around it, it’s beyond me. Maybe these guys can, so more power to them. Again, this isn’t a well-informed opinion this time around, so definitely check Metal Purgatory Media when it comes to modern tech-death. Anyone want to send some Grandpa’s guitars music?
(11 Tracks, 36:00)
Jute Gyte – Oviri (2017) – For those unaware of Jute Gyte’s music, one might wonder from the first few notes of “Democritus Laughing” why a man would ever record himself playing the guitar badly and out of tune. Though what’s interesting about that, is Adam Kalmbach is actually quite an experienced compositionalist and many of the songs are outright experiments in that field, as well as various tributes to novels he’s read over the past few years. This has been true of many of his albums, which are just now getting proper exposure in the scene after all these years. In fact, one of the commenters on his Bandcamp claims that this is the next evolution of metal, which I hope is not true as it is already over saturated with wank and technicality to the point where the music itself is making less sense than it ever has. Though with Jute Gyte, he intentionally crafts albums to come off as they do and there’s nothing quite like what he does – nor should there be. Please don’t let me wake up tomorrow morning and find that everyone threw away the tech-death resurgence gimmick to begin making half-assed attempts at the experience that Jute Gyte has created with this and other albums. As we might expect with a Jute Gyte album, electronics and extreme technicality make up the rule of law in this half black metal/half atmosphere release that dazzles as much as it puzzles. Jute Gyte is about as close as one can get to the Gordian Knot of Gorguts’ Obscura, which means that he’s approaching this in the best possible way. The end of “Democritus Laughing” can even sound like some sort of weird horror theme,I keep thinking about a demon creeping into a child’s room in one of those old eighties horror films, while a sadistic lullaby plays. You’ll find the same sort of oblong weirdness in “Mice Eating Gold” which even enters into slightly perverted Middle-Eastern inspired territory. I feel as though I’m in a ritual by the end of it. As for “Yarinareth, Yarinareth, Yarinareth” I’ve said the name about three times and it has not yet appeared before me. For shame, as I just purchased a Super Retrocade and needed someone to grab the second controller on beat em’ ups. It doesn’t really matter how fearsome, terrible or massive this being is, if it can hold a controller – that works for me. Maybe it’s taking a shower and I’ll try again later. I think the worst thing in the world is when you summon a great ancient being, only to find it draped in a towel because you’ve summoned it while in the bath. I will say that the intriguing use of melody and (is that the sound of a tape recorder fast-forwarding?) definitely make this odd song stand out. As for “Fauna Of Mirrors” it seems to go into realms that I can’t even describe. Kalmbach had better watch out, or he’s going to end up bringing some kind of other-world invasion to our planet with these kinds of weird inhuman melodies. For all I know, he’s already done so and the sounds I’m hearing are indeed not of this world. I’d definitely believe that, judging from the performance that is going through my eardrums right now. As for the harsh vocal stuff, it’s definitely there and ravenous as it should be, but him screaming like a banshee just isn’t all that important compared to what is going on in the background. I don’t think it would be a good idea to send this stuff up into space on a satellite, we might wake up tomorrow and realize we’d called Z18823’s mother a foul term in their world and that means enslavement. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like chiseling great statues to alien overlords for the rest of my days. There’s absolutely nothing like this on the planet right now, so please take note of it and don’t decide that your band has to sound like it too, as well as the bands of your neighbors and their neighbors and practically everyone else in the metal scene. Let’s allow Jute Gyte to reach great stardom on their own merits – or maybe not, as somewhere in the back of my head, I do think that some of these compositions may literally be the key to opening up another dimension. Apparently, Phillip K. Dick believed that Valis was real, though I can’t say I’m interested in visiting. Okay, unless the female specimens are green and have four breasts. I have a thing for green women, but can’t seem to find any on this planet.
(6 Tracks, 74:00)
Atropos Wrath – Where Gods Lay Down To Die (2017) – Barely covered anywhere else, I suppose that I’m one of the few people who noticed this one. Metal Archives considers them “melodic death metal” but not so much in the sense of In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Insomnium and others. The record actually contains more and thicker grooves than we’d expect, showing that the Germans wanted a disc with more grit than much cleaner discs, which this is certainly not. The vocals also lean on black metal at times, even though thick growls are also utilized on the disc. Though I will not deny that it has melodies and great ones at that, this disc seems to be a bit bleaker than what we expect from the melodeath genre and nearly hits the tone of dark/depressive melodeath if we’re being honest. Listen to the vocal approach and overall composition on “For Dawns To Come” where a scowl very close to anything you’ll hear in black metal is surely present, as well as the devastating blasts and tremolos of such a genre. If Atropos Wrath are indeed melodeath, they are an intensely darker version of the genre that you absolutely should not be looking over. The band is textually brilliant as well, with no fear of changing up sections to add more groove, acoustics, tremolos, drum blasts and even female vocal sections when necessary. I’ve always loved this kind of stuff no matter how it’s been dressed, but it’s good to see an act taking more from Graveworm than Insomnium or In Flames for once. Yes, I name-dropped Graveworm here and that’s definitely how I would describe them. For those of you who haven’t heard of an act like Graveworm (who aren’t quite as good as they used to be, unfortunately) I highly recommend digging through their discography as they craft some of the best darker-tinged melodic death metal I’ve ever heard, with definite black metal tinges as has been referenced on this album. I don’t think that Atropos Wrath are the next Graveworm, but I definitely enjoy what they’re doing here. If I could coin this genre, I’d call it grim melodeath and feel that it pretty much describes this impressive beast well enough. If you’re even remotely a fan of dark atmospheres, melody and groove when necessary, give this act a try. It’s their sophomore album, so they must be doing something right.
(7 Tracks, 47:00)
Ewigkeit – The Cosmic Man (2017) – Don’t you just love when you’re listening to the sixth album of an act you’ve never heard? You know, especially when you’re a major fan of the previous act from which this one spawned? Before I end up getting you confused, let me explain something. Mr. Fog AKA James Fogarty was known for his work in The Meads Of Asphodel, one of the best and most decorative forms of musical satire that I’ve ever heard. Not surprisingly, the band also worked with one of my other favorite bands of all time – Sigh. Mirai handled keyboards. Anyhoo, there had been some sort of discrepancy between Mr. Fog and The Metatron, causing Fogarty to devote all of his focus to a project that I didn’t actually know was around during his lengthy stint in The Meads Of Asphodel. The Cosmic Man is a fairly recent album, but he also released a new version of the band debut, Battle Furies which is more in line with the historical nature of The Meads Of Asphodel. Though we aren’t here to talk about either of those things. We’re here to talk about the monument that is Cosmic Man. I don’t actually remember how I obtained this one, all I know is that I was listening to it one day and thought to myself – this IS INCREDIBLE. WHO IS THIS? So I looked up the information and wasn’t even shocked. Of course, it has to be someone related to the Meads/Sigh circle of bands that I can’t get enough of. This is almost my proof of some bizarre divine plan setup by some weird deities or perhaps some egregores that I created while stoned in ritual years ago. Not surprisingly, that allegory isn’t far from this album as The Cosmic Man does begin to sound like a stoned ritual, where even though Fogarty’s vocals aren’t very loud in the mix, (I’d love it if they were raised a bit, but will just turn the album up to full blast in order to put a band-aid on that) I find myself thrown directly into a psychedelic world of heavy metal melody. Some black metal influence is featured here and there, though it is not a major necessity. If “Death Is The Portal” doesn’t get you, then “Neon Ghoul Ride” will. (The name makes me think of Ghouls and Ghosts too, so that works.) By and large, this is an album for people who love the sounds of melodic guitar and keyboards, and nearly come to a feeling of orgasm when they come together to make musical love. Additionally, Fogarty decided to go with a much warmer production on this one in order to obtain that classic feel of the albums that he grew up with and that’s perfectly fine. I’d even say that it benefits the performance, making it sound from that golden era of heavy metal and prog rock, which as I’ve said; are lovingly embraced on this disc. With so many great cuts coming one after another, I’m surprised that more people aren’t praising this disc. It also seems like Fogarty himself might have pushed it aside a bit for the re-recording of Battle Furies, which I just don’t like as much The Cosmic Man. I also feel that I can identify more with the bizarre metaphysical and occult-laden content of this one than I can with the other. It’s a bit raw, but it’s the kind of music that would go great while reading something like Alan Moore’s Promethea or Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles. Especially the first issue of the series, (Dead Beatles) which features the psychedelic god that Lennon might have become after he’d died. If you like this album, chances are that you’ll like the others and I’ll be checking them out as well, on the very same Bandcamp page that I’m linking here for you. Let’s discover the magic of James Fogarty together.
(10 Tracks, 60:00)
Afterbirth – The Time Traveler’s Dilemma (2017) – After releasing a slew of demos in the early nineties, this New York based brutal death act came together to release a more diverse and slightly more technical recording than what composes much of this genre, aside from an act like Demilich which is now praised but was passed by several decades ago. Simply put, it is now time for these guys to strike while the technical iron is hot and I’d certainly consider that to be the case when it comes to a disc like this one. I’m taken on a journey through a multitude of intriguing soundscapes, with only a hefty belching man to guide me. Hold on, let me rephrase that. With only a mutant swine man to guide me. Sometimes Will Smith (and not that Will Smith, though I would love to see them do a collaboration) does offer a bit of a growl, though for the most part I’m hearing what sounds like his digestive system. It’s quite interesting as the approach almost seems to flow into the diverse song structures in place here, which move from thick breakdowns to massive progressive movements. It feels like technical death metal, though without the wank. The album actually features a few moments in which it can breathe and allows for some more traditional approaches in the mix aside from Cynic, Gorguts and Cryptopsy references. I suppose if Dying Fetus opted for a more intelligent and less groove-heavy (even though there are a few grooves lurking here) approach, The Time Traveler’s Dilemma would certainly come out of that. There’s also a section in “Discarded Astral Body” that sounds like it may have some inspiration in Super Metroid, though one cannot say for sure. In addition to mind-boggling brutality, the band also offer a few instrumental performances, which certainly can only further beef up such an impressive performance as this one. Some of you might not feel the same way as they can take away from the uncompromising technical brutality, though they do add to the atmosphere being created here for your audial entertainment. For a band who has been around for decades though never had the chance to release a proper full-length, it’s good to see that The Time Traveler’s Dilemma is certainly far from a dud.
(11 Tracks, 44:00)