Premiere: Slave One – ‘Suffocating the Stars’
A pallid face emerges as the zipper travels down the bodybag. The mortician (not that one), having made a living as Death’s custodian, is unfazed by the stillness, the purple shades of livor mortis. He unfastens the clasps of his surgical kit and removes the tools of the trade. Autopsies are by nature lonely work; it’s only in the silent sterility of the morgue that the nerves act up, so he always performs to a musical score. He raises the scalpel as Slave One‘s “Suffocating the Stars” blares from the speakers.
As the incision begins, “Suffocating…” displays the band at their most pointed. Meloskronk (I will keep trying to make this a thing) riffs slice through the dry production with squalls of feedback and abrasive open chords; in combination with the hiss of cymbal chokes, the song sounds remarkably sharp despite its density. Slave One’s mix of melody, tech death flashiness and OSDM grooves calls to mind early Gorod (and more recently, Horror God); their main focus is the memorability of songs on a moment to moment basis and the use of counterpoint to flesh out the compositions. And there is a lot of flesh to work through.
Below the skin, the scalpel meets muscle. (This is where the knuckle-dragging death metal comes in.) The mid-paced riffing and double bass that follow are the epitome of headbanging fodder, and I mean that as the highest compliment—it’s these sections that let the band (and their songs) stretch and avoid cramping up. Oh, and also have fun. More tech bands could benefit from considering fun.
As the track moves into its finale, layers continue to be peeled away, leaving behind the grim scaffolding of the skeleton. It’s a testament to the band’s songwriting prowess that they’re able to build atmosphere by paring down complexity. The nuanced drums and simple chugging showcase the tight rhythm section that allows the band to explore so many directions (whether adding or removing ideas) without spilling into a puddle on the floor.
With a harsh grating, the mortician’s bonesaw cleaves the ribcage. Reaching into the chest cavity, his cool veneer drops away. This is something entirely new. The heart pumps in the cadaver’s chest, blood working against gravity and against nature. Could this be tech death that stirs a pulse within? How ghoulish!