Devoid of Thought – Astral Necrosis
A friend of mine once made a joke that was something along the lines that death metal today is where thrash was in the late 80’s. While not exactly accurate, it’s not fully wrong. Look at the death/thrash approach of bands like Condition Critical, Ripper, Scythian, Malicious, Cryptic Shift, Besieged, recent Deceased and so on. This particular halfway point genre is a difficult one to get right and in most cases only satisfies fans of one side or the other. Sometimes it’s essentially just death metal songs with Destruction and Slayer style riffs coating its edges and other times it’s Kreator and early Sepultura style fare with the odd blast beat and far more tremolo picking. Nonetheless it’s a bit of a stylistic oddity in how it attempts to balance what was with what became, though the results are often mixed. After all, in order for death metal to truly realize its full potential, it did have to shed the last remains of the then bloated thrash genre for good reason.
Of course, it’s still possible to get quite a bit of mileage out of this with the right configuration and Devoid of Thought come close to fully capitalizing on this. As the band’s cobweb ridden logo and wordy song titles might imply they go for a darker and more atmospheric take on this style that isn’t very common beyond some of the weirder progressive and technical genre practitioners. Where Chile’s Dictator would be psychedelic and Taiwan’s now defunct Masquerader jaggedly robotic, Devoid of Thought is ominous and melodic in the cryptic and unsettling way you would expect of a group like Vorum or classic Morbid Angel. While the pacing and rhythmic outline that comprises their sound is at the transition point from the late end era of thrash with staccato riffing and incessantly aggressive percussion they’ve upgraded this with a death metal approach to tone and phrasing. Sinister melodies are embedded behind the incessantly rushing attack favouring steady tempo and letting riffing gradually morph and twist as strands of demonic harmony emerge like strange figures in a swampy murk. On a riff per riff game, they’re capable of standing against many of the previously mentioned bands, possessing an excellent grasp on both barbarity and intricacy without having to become stereotypically teknikul or completely boneheaded in their approach.
However like a lot of promising bands, while they have great ideas, they haven’t figure out how to make all the pieces fit together. This is mostly a result of what comes off as stylistic indecisiveness, fairly common for a lot of genre fusions. Here Devoid of Thought’s strengths directly juxtapose with their shortcomings. They’ll be able to whip up some truly creative riffing that easily avoid easy classification amongst death and thrash but they’ll tend to fall into the latter’s traps and fail to make good on the potential of the former. You’ll get a lot of cool technique but it’s not very well elaborated on and used almost more like a hook than a compositional anchor, sometimes popping up to add a bit of variety to a song before they settle into familiar and somewhat well-worn repetitive patterns. The death metal part of their sound allows for some truly malevolent parts that approach early blackened death like Grotesque or Gardens of Grief era At The Gates but they can often disappear behind rigid staccato patterns that grow tedious being heard again so quickly like on “Hepatoscopy”. At other moments during “Necrotic Surface Discarded” and “Sidereal Breath” these more atmospheric parts overstay their welcome in long, dragging portions or transition awkwardly into at times weirdly catchy or otherwise rushed thrashy patterns that sound almost like they were from another song entirely.
These aren’t terrifying, unredeemable, or utterly disabling flaws but they make this a somewhat frustrating listen because they’re directly linked to their strengths. The songs primarily need to focus on a better sense of narrative or progression; at the moment they’re mostly carried by raw momentum and the more experimental death metal oriented parts. However if they really want to improve on and make full use of their capacities they’ll hopefully lean more towards the death metal side of the equation in the sense of using less blunt and more varied rhythmic topography and using the thrash portions primarily to navigate through the ambiguity of their creative lead playing and ensuring songs stay focused and merciless in their delivery. Fans of the weirder and less catchy extreme realms of thrash or the sinister areas of earlier death metal when the genre was experimenting with future black metal tropes might enjoy this. At the moment, it’s more promising than it is mandatory.