Tech Death Thursday: Cortexiphan


There can never be enough tech, but Cortexiphan almost brings too much. It’s Tech Death Thursday!

This week kinda sucked:

  • St. Louis continues to be shitty to touring musicians; this time, Black Crown Initiate were the victims of a van break-in freshly off of what sounds like their most successful tour to date. The thieves made off with their gear, passports, laptops, some personal effects, and the $5000 the band had earned over the course of the tour. There’s a donation page set up if you want to help them recoup their losses (though at the time of this writing, their goal has been surpassed by just over $1000). Let this be a reminder to touring bands: always have someone keeping an eye on the gear, regardless of how long you plan on being away from it.
  • Following that note, Serpentspire were also hit by thieves, losing a significant amount of equipment. If you live in the Spokane area, keep an eye on pawnshops, Craigslist, etc. for the stolen items.
  • Thankfully, Virvum is here to remind us everything isn’t shit. The title track from their upcoming album Illuminance is grand and sweeping in scope, building on their penchant for the atmospheric without drifting too far from earth. Look for the full thing on September 16th.

I’ve been feeling the need for some pure, unadulterated tech death lately; no frills, no bells and whistles, just people grabbing their instruments and going fast. As if in answer to my unspoken prayer for supreme weedly-deedlies, Cortexiphan released their first full-length album last week. It’s not one I’d been following particularly closely, but it just so happened to be exactly what I wanted when I wanted it. Now you get to hear it too, so let’s get to it!

For anyone unfamiliar, this isn’t the band’s first outing; the multinational trio released an EP back in 2012 (which you can listen to here). Anathema felt to me like both a proof-of-concept and an experimental venture for the band, like they were trying to establish their sound but weren’t quite sure what they wanted that sound to be. Each of its five songs are quite distinct and do a good job of showcasing the band’s talent, but the lack of focus makes it feel a bit disjointed. The only song to rise above the others was “Great Human Woe,” both for its superior flow and its mournful lyrics, expressing the pain of losing a child. Cortexiphan themselves seemed to think the same thing, because this is the path they have continued down on Iniquitous.

As soon as “The Big Sleep” kicks in, you’ll probably notice a close resemblance to Cosmogenesis-era Obscura, albeit with harsher vocals. They share quite a few common elements, from the string-skipping dual guitar riffs to the active bass to the general ebb and flow of the songs. Even the solos have a distinct Münzner quality to them, featuring long legato runs with plenty of swept arpeggios and tapping lines. The transitions and key changes happen right where you expect them to as well; the experience is nothing if not familiar.

So what keeps this band from being a clone? Under the surface, there are quite a few differences, primarily their tendency to take things over the top. For example, where Obscura break up the pace by injecting slower bridges and mellow moments into their songs, Cortexiphan likes to speed up and get heavier. Where you might expect a half-time groove or a clean break, they will double down on blastbeats and switch to a diminished riff. This is especially true on “Drowning,” which ditches the conventional melodies in favor of sinister, almost atonal swirls of notes. Their predilection for the ridiculous also comes through in “Convergence,” which is built on a series of tapped arpeggios worthy of Brain Drill. They don’t go too overboard in that this is largely contained to the one song, so it makes for a good change of pace.

If there’s one weakness this album has, it’s in the pacing. There aren’t any moments of downtime until the last third of the album, finally allowing for some breathing room in their unyielding charge. It stands to reason that there wouldn’t be time to stop given their songs’ short run-times, but it would have been nice to get even a short break a little earlier. I found myself mentally exhausted around track 10 on my first listen, at which point there were still two songs remaining. It works out on a song-per-song basis, but it’s harder to stomach if you try to listen to it all at once.

Pacing issues aside, Iniquitous is a solid addition to the formidable lineup of tech death releases this year. You can pick it up right here and follow Cortexiphan on their Facebook. That’s all for this time, and until next week:

Stay Tech

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