Tech Death Thursday: Bleak Flesh
Bleak Flesh just dropped a new album, and it’s about damn time, too. Just, uh, try to move past that Lawnmower Man/System Shock 2 cover art and you’ll be fine.
- Aethere just premiered “Strain,” the second song from their upcoming album, Adrift. It covers a bunch of different styles of music, so it should be interesting to see where this album goes. Look for that on April 28th.
- BRAIN DRILL has a somewhat awkward new video for “Infinite Oblivion” from their last album. It’s certainly not the worst thing we’ve watched around these parts, but it’s not like it enhances the experience, either.
- The Artisan Era have signed a pair of new acts: instrumental tech/prog group Dark Matter Secret, whom you should really check out if you’re not already familiar, and Inanimate Existence, whose new album I’m probably a little unreasonably hyped for. Both bands have new music on the way this summer, and Inanimate Existence will be hitting the road with Reaping Asmodeia and Cyborg Octopus in June.
I’ve been excited about this Bleak Flesh release for awhile now, and not without reason. The band’s 2016 single, “Radial Velocity,” showcased some awesome tech death riffing infused with some light neoclassical elements and synth underpinnings. It was Vale of Pnath’s music combined with the panache of Irreversible Mechanism; fast and exciting, but not too over the top. Now, over a year later, the final product has been released, and it was well worth the wait.
Looking back, “Radial Velocity’s” purpose was twofold, the first being to put the band’s significantly improved songwriting chops on display. Their 2014 album, Transcendence, while solid, was heavily mired in obnoxious djent tropes. For every complex guitar passage and monster solo, there was a weak chugging riff with a noise gate chopping off the attack. The production was as sterile as it can get, and everything was drowning in electronics.
All of that has been fixed on Overcoming Reality, and they did it without sacrificing any of their identity. Some of those elements that were so bothersome on Transcendence are still present here, but they have been toned down and turned to the band’s advantage. The music is much more focused and the musicians more active, largely resembling the two aforementioned acts. Some light progressive passages have been added in as well, toying with jazz progressions and some truly excellent counterpoint and call-and-response sections (particularly on closing track “The Spectral Path“). Those chugging riffs are still there, but they’re almost always accompanied by a second melody doing something more interesting, and they feel more transitional than like filler. Electronics are still present throughout, but they’re used much more tastefully and give the album a sci-fi vibe that matches its campy cover art (that’s a compliment, I swear). The band feels renewed and reinvigorated, and that infectious energy courses through their music.
I believe that is owed in some part to the second purpose of “Radial Velocity:” the introduction of the band’s new vocalist. It’s no secret that extreme metal vocals are almost an afterthought in most cases, used for texture rather than to convey any deep meaning or idea. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that Overcoming Reality breaks the mold in this regard, the delivery is vastly different than on their previous albums. Ngen Keruff is an incredibly dynamic vocalist; his singing voice is pleasantly mellow, belying the ferocity of his scream. I can only adequately describe his high scream as “fleshy,” and his low-mid growl comes out as a monstrous roar akin to Rayner Coss’ (ex-Mithras). Truly good vocalists are hard to come by in tech death and are often overlooked besides, but it would be a mistake to tune out Keruff.
Fun as the album is, it’s not perfect. The guitar engineering is the biggest misstep here; while it’s certainly an improvement over their earlier material, I was initially somewhat put off by it. They sound oddly muffled; they’re not lost in the mix at all or too quiet, but they almost sound like they’re playing through foam or something. I’m not sure if it’s the way they were EQ’d or if it’s in the tone (my audio engineering skills are lacking), but something about them just sounds a bit off. The plus side to this is that the music lacks that biting treble that’s present in so many tech death bands. Other than that, I feel like there were one or two missed opportunities for experimentation on the album, particularly on “Expanding the Existence.” There’s a short jazz chord break partway through the song that sounds like it’s going to lead into a prog groove, but it instead falls back to something akin to the riff preceding it with a solo over the top. Granted, it’s a totally sweet solo, but I was a little disappointed it didn’t go in the direction I anticipated.
Overall, these are just minor blemishes on an otherwise incredibly polished experience. Bleak Flesh sound better than ever before, and Overcoming Reality seems to be the start of a great new direction for them. They’ve trimmed the fat from their music and shaken things up stylistically, and it has more than paid off. If you like what you heard, you can get the album on Bandcamp and follow the band on Facebook. That’s all for this week, so until we meet again,
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