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TO Staff – Technical Death Metal Highlights (Pt. 1)

If you’re like me, you yearn for a bit more than 30-45 minutes of standard 4:4 time.  You want something you can really sink your teeth into…and hope that something will forcefully yank said teeth from your jaw.  I consider myself a lover of all things technical, and given the sheer number of metal bands these days it pays to have some experience in the realms of jazz and classical music to evolve beyond simple brutality into mind-breaking art.  That having been said, the tech death genre isn’t exactly new either.  The old combination of relentless double-bass and wildly noodling guitars just doesn’t quite pay the bills anymore.  It is with this idea in mind that the Transcending Obscurity staff put this list together.  We strive to bring you the best and brightest who are not only god-like in their musicianship, but also have enough creativity and songwriting skills to create albums that are both enjoyable and unique. –FlightOfIcarus

The Zenith Passage – ‘Solipsist’ (Unique Leader)

Ahh Unique Leader, you remain one of my favorite and most dependable record labels. What treats do you have for us this time, I wonder? Hmm, what’s this – a tech death extravaganza, featuring current and former members of The Faceless, Oblivion, Fallujah, and All Shall Perish? Why yes! I’ll take that! As you’d expect from such a group of individuals, the musicianship on ‘Solipsist’ is first-rate, and the music is impressively frenzied and brutal. This is such a good album; like The Faceless, only more extreme. If you like this kind of thing then this is something to get quite excited about. –Nigel


Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust (Season of Mist)

Gorguts came back in a big way with 2013’s ‘Colored Sands’, providing dense, technical riffing and progressively oriented songwriting that was able to live up to their past works while pushing their ideas into new territory. The current lineup has been fairly active since, and thankfully there wasn’t too long of a wait before listeners could get their hands on new material. Gorguts’ latest is a 33 minute EP titled ‘Pleiades’ Dust’, but whereas a lot of EP’s feel like throwaway filler this one has been given as much attention to detail as a full length album. Comprised of a single song that is split into multiple parts, the songwriting is even more adventurous and showcases a bit more emphasis on restraint and atmosphere. Dense riffing and technical showmanship gives way to sprawled out instrumentation that takes listeners on a journey into unknown worlds. It’s going to take a few times through to fully get a feel for this one, but once everything clicks you’ll discover Gorguts doing what they do best: pushing death metal beyond its usual boundaries and showcasing a more intelligent side of the genre. – Chris


The Ritual Aura – Laniakea (Lacerated Enemy Records)

I am glad there are some excellent Australian musicians redeeming the continent for the image set by that one extremely average metalcore band that shall remain nameless.   Perth’s The Ritual Aura have a very defining, stylized sound that helps it become instantly recognizable; something that is of the utmost importance in a genre where bands start to run together.  The purposeful use of condensed, almost digital sounding distortion sounds like Ghengis Tron and Within the Ruins had a baby that rebelled by becoming more extreme than either of them.  And as for the actual musicianship: to quote Skwisgaar Skwigelf, “You think you know sweeps…you don’ know sweeps.” Between these, the inglorious double bass, and the various other noodlings; this is certainly a technical work of art. The shifting riffs and rhythms mixed with the stellar production on tracks like “Precursor of Aphotic Collapse” sound like galaxies colliding. –FlightOfIcarus


Geryon – ‘Geryon’ (Gilead Media)

So this enigmatic beast came out in 2013. It was its downright strangeness that got me interested really. Well that and that gorgeous-looking cover, and the fact that half of Krallice was in it, and that Gilead Media put it out and that it was a bass-and-drum-only endeavour and yes, of course the strangeness. The music on this album is just demented, proper left-field and unlike any death metal you’ve heard before. It is probably why naming it after the most eccentric grandchild of Medusa was a no-brainer. The songwriting is inventive, cerebral and more than makes for expunging the prime death metal instrument. What’s more puzzling than the sheer genius of the music is McMaster’s bass tone. I literally couldn’t tell what’s happening, but it sounds great and that’s why it is on this list. –Anoop


Fleshgore – ‘Denial of the Scriptures’ (Xtreem Music) 

Ukraine holds many gems from the more extreme genres of metal. There is a treasure trove to be found in the black metal genre especially, but these brutal and technical death metalers carry the torch for the country just as high. For fans of groups like Dying Fetus, Suffocation, Wormed and Virulency; ‘Denial of the Scriptures’ is a wet dream of technical, face pummeling madness. Frontman Ruslan grunts his way into your brain and devours it from the inside out. This album makes me want to bleed all over myself while pretending to be a tyrannosaurus rex stomping through a local playground. –FlightOfIcarus


Cerebric Turmoil – ‘Neural Net Meltdown’ (Amputated Vein Records )

Occasionally you get to hear something so twisted, insane and brutally warped that you just can’t help but call think it’s completely crazy, but in a good way. Cerebric Turmoil are one such band. This is a crazy album.  Absolutely throat-rippingly-mental. Take the best bits of Cephalic Carnage, Obscura, Wormed, Cryptopsy, and Psycroptic, combine it with a futuristic alien-spawned sci-fi theme and you have some ultra-mutated technical death metal. The band know all about their business though, and I suspect there’s some deeper meaning behind their chaotic madness, buried within the layers of screaming riffs and jagged wildness. Phew. Press play and hold on for dear life. –Nigel


C.B. Murdoc – Here Be Dragons (ViciSolum Productions)

I had never heard of these guys prior to this week, but I am excited to spend a lot more time with ‘Here Be Dragons.’  The band is from Stockholm, Sweden and is supposedly a creative outlet for the long winter months.  So in essence, this is the sound of cabin fever…and I wouldn’t want to share the Overlook with these chaps given that this is the kind of dark and twisted energy lurking just beneath the skin.  C.B. Murdoc specialize in brain melting via constantly contorting compositions and drumming you will not believe until you hear it.  But they have a progressive, melodic side that perfectly offsets the anarchy.  Definitely a bit of Meshuggah influence as well, though they take the ideas in a different direction.  Watch for this one on June 24th. –FlightOfIcarus



Orbeth – Mentalist (Independent)

In which prolific UK multi-instrumentalist Ben White lets his imagination loose to run around the darkest depths of the far off planet named Orbethia. After several albums exploring more melodic and progressive realms of Metal, on ‘Mentalist’ Orbeth re-visits death metal for the first time since 2012’s ‘7th Galaxy,’ only this time things have taken a turn for the, ahem, “Mental.” Very mental. Put it this way, hardly has an album been more accurately named. If Orbeth‘s death metal output in the past could be described as Morbid Angel covering Bal Sagoth while late 90s Emperor shouted encouragement from the side lines, in ‘Mentalist’ Orbeth is more akin to latter period Death combined with Portal, and pacing tips from Origin. The common element in all of Orbeth‘s varied output is the use of epic melody, and despite its extremity ‘Mentalist’ is no different. So while the drums will pound you into dust, maintaining dizzying speeds throughout, and the vocals will assail you like a pack of feral wolves, baying and snarling, you’re never far away from a killer riff with a genuine melodic sensibility. Not to mention the guitar solos, which again, flay you in a hook ridden flurry of shredding fury. Few are the times that metal has broached such extremes of speed and technicality while remaining so musical. ‘Mentalist’ is brutal, punishing, extreme, and, well, Mental. –Lucian Sanchez


Fallujah – Dreamless (Nuclear Blast)

If you came to hear more music in the vein of ‘The Flesh Prevails,’ you won’t be disappointed.  This San Francisco band has their own take on technical death, fusing heavy influences from the progressive and atmospheric camps as well.  Like so many comic book villains, there is a duality to the tone.  One side is preoccupied with proficient guitarwork that picks and crunches its way through riffs and drum patterns that play with time signatures and rip through some killers solos.  The other is content to reach into the ambient realms of groups like Neurotech, especially on instrumental tracks like Fidelio and Les Silences.  Sometimes these additions are purely electronic, others they are achieved through the use of piano, guitar harmonics, and copious amounts of reverb.  Whether you consider the end result to fit into the “tech death” label or not, ‘Dreamless’ is undeniably impressive.


First Fragment – ‘Dasein’ (Unique Leader)

It seems that First Fragment – another from the glorious Unique Leader stable – are prodigiously talented musicians. This is dropped-jaw impressive, all blistering intensity and masterful solos. It’s uncommon music, as not only can the band really, really play, but their songs are well-crafted and carry a deeper resonance than you sometimes get with truly technical music. Dasein is as professional as it gets, but more importantly hits an emotive note that few technical death metal bands ever come close to achieving. What’s their secret? Who knows, but I’ll be gleefully listening to this album over and over again in the hopes of finding out. Essential listening. –Nigel


Pronostic- An Atomic Decision (Independent)

”An Atomic Decision’ is Pronostic‘s first full-lenth album, and a great way to start their musical career. Pronostic combines different genres and different flavors of those genres. They are very melodic and technical and switch between the two smoothly. The solos will keep you entertained if the riffs don’t.  –Andriana


Unhuman – Unhuman (Independent)

This album came out in 2013 and even though I enjoyed it at the time of its release it has since grown to be one of my favorite death metal albums ever.  Musically these Canadians are somewhat comparable to the more spaced-out moments of Cryptopsy and Gorguts, but really they sound like no one else.  They´re more playful, and they don’t seem to mind adding a humorous touch to their music that makes it more entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, this is seriously brutal but the songs are full of unexpected turns and twists which makes them more memorable.  Another original touch is the unhuman (pun intended) vocals, they are truly out of this world. Throughout the album he goes from deep, gurgling growls to psychotic screams, and his twisted, wheezing yelps are just tasty ear-candy. And to utilize this unique range of vocals while handling the guitar is just immensely impressive.  Even if you’re not so much into tech-death, this album should appeal to anyone looking for some original and creative death metal. –Eirik


Omnihility – Dominion of Misery (Unique Leader)

Oh, but this is some technical, brutal stuff. Omnihility have impressed me with their previous output, but ‘Dominion of Misery’ is on another level of intensity altogether. The guitars seem to be trying to play everything at once, while the speed factor is through the roof. Although not as insanely chaotic as some bands of this ilk, Omnihility use the brutality of their music to streamline their attack straight for the sensitive parts of the body. You know what they say – the quickest way to the heart is through the ribcage. –Nigel


Gorod – A Maze of Recycled Creeds (Listenable)

Gorod, in my books, must rank as one of the most underrated bands in Extreme Metal. Since hearing of the “French Gorgasm”, through the name change and beyond, for the past decade they have been producing consistently impressive albums and brilliant live shows, I am puzzled as to why they’re not more widely revered. Why aren’t they headlining European tours? On magazine covers? I guess I’m just not as much of an arbiter of taste as I thought, as clearly them asses, sorry, the masses haven’t embraced them as I feel they deserve. I mean, what’s not to like? Fluid, impressive, and not least *intelligent* technical and progressive death metal, with a unique sense of melody. On every album. No one does lead guitar lines that ebb and flow and shred and interplay, within the context of coherent songs quite like Gorod. And ‘A Maze of Recycled Creeds’ continues in this vein, albeit in their most progressive and varied form yet. Were it not for the vocals, which soundly keep them within the death metal realm, this would unquestionably put them, stylistically, shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Between the Buried and Me and Devin Townsend (at his heaviest). Fallujah are being (quite rightly) feted left and right currently, and I see no reason why Gorod should be treated any differently. Anyway, I digress; ‘A Maze of Recycled Creeds’ continues Gorod‘s run of brilliant albums and expands their sound in exactly the right ways. If you’re a fan of progressive and (I’ll say it again) intelligent metal in anyway shape or form you really ought to get your ears around this. And when you have, tell the next person too and we might get somewhere to getting them to where they deserve to be. – Ewan


Solinaris – Deranged (Cimmerian Shade Recordings)

I don’t know what’s the deal with Canadian bands and technical music but credit must be given where it’s due. Solinaris here have gone a step ahead fusing saxophone bits into technical death metal – rendering it interesting as well as unpredictable. As the album progresses, it traverses many styles and patterns, and it’s overwhelming at first but upon repeat (or close) listens, it’s all revealed to the listener. This titillating unraveling is what lures me towards this style, even though it may not be the catchiest or most pit-friendly form of metal music. Delve into this highly rewarding album right away. Call a psychiatrist right after. – Kunal


A Loathing Requiem – Acolytes Eternal (Independent)

‘Acolytes Eternal’ is the second full length album of the one-man Tech Death project A Loathing Requiem (Malcolm Pugh) from Nashville/TN. To be sure, the album is a demonstration of the insane musical and instrumental skills of “the one man”, yet it is so much more than that. Its nine songs exhibit cohesion, cohesion in themselves as well as between each other. Each riff, each solo, each beat, each lead serves the song. All structure, may it be as technical and intricate as hell, it never ends in itself. The delicious brutality and rare moments of atmosphere of the songs don’t get drowned out by any gimmicks or show offs. Here we have what’s called good songwriting. Don’t forget to check out A Loathing Requiem‘s debut album ‘Psalms of Misanthropy’ as well. – Ulla

Posthumous Blasphemer – Exhumation of Sacred Impunity (Coyote Records)

Despite being released over 2 years ago, ‘Exhumation of Sacred Impunity’ still places Posthumous Blasphemer among the elite of brutal and technical death metal. The influence of Necrophagist’s Epitaph has permeated throughout the death metal scene over the last decade and a bit, and Posthumous Blasphemer are a band who have taken those cues and melded something of their own which is very special. Book-ended with matching cinematic intro and outro, ramping up the drama before the maelstrom begins, and cooling off once it is complete, the meat of the album is a feast of complex yet fluid song structures, pinpoint riffing, pummeling brutality, and best of all lead guitar wizardry. There’s no shortage of shredders out there who do not know their arpeggio from their elbow, however, the same cannot be said of the lead playing of Alexander Fiendharon, whose ability to combine virtuosity with barbed hooks of melody is second to none. This is the complete package of technicality, speed, brutality, and catchy songmanship – Ewan

Deviant Process – Paroxysm (PRC Music)

Deviant Process is a four-peice progressive death metal band out of Quebec City that has shared the stage with acts such as Cryptopsy, Vital Remains and Revocation. Their latest album, ‘Paroxysm,’ is a mind-melting wonder to behold. These 8 tracks are all carefully constructed, mentally contorting acts of ordered chaos. The progressive element is strong hearkening at various times to a number of different groups: Opeth, Gigan, Plague Rider, Odetosun, and Warforged. All of those technical chops and compositional skills are fed through a meat grinder of brutality. The riffs are seemingly endless, constantly shifting styles from jazzy noodling, to blackened tremolo, to chugging and squealing brutal death. Simply zeroing in on the drums as a listener is an act of exhaustion. Man has the stamina of a cheetah. I am also always appreciative of a chance to give the bass player his due. In addition to opening the album solo, there are a number of moments that his clunky tone jumps forward in the mix with killer runs that can only be described as “funky.” –FlightOfIcarus


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