Tech Death Thursday: Nuclear Blast July Roundup
July is loaded to the brim with new tech death albums, and Nuclear Blast is leading the pack with a trio of heavy-hitters from some big names in the game. This week, we’re checking out the newest albums from Origin, Decrepit Birth, and Rings of Saturn.
Before we get to that, some news:
- Opticleft are streaming their new album in full. Check it out if you’re looking for a somewhat different take on the modern tech death paradigm; it fits, but there’s something different about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. In any case, it’s rad.
- Inanimate Existence have revealed their new album, Underneath a Melting Sky, along with its track list, artwork, and release date. Preorders and a new song go up next week. Check the details right here, and look for the album on August 25th.
- Tech death wizards NYN have released a new song, “Maelstrom II: The Ignorance of the Gatekeeper.” This one is significantly more chill than the last song, and features a sweet guest solo from A Sense of Gravity’s Brandon Morris. Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt is out August 11th. (TovH Premiere)
- Brutal death outfit Embryonic Devourment just released a video for “Challenging All Forms of Hope” from their 2014 album, Reptilian Agenda. I missed this one when it first came out, but this is pretty solid.
- Enfold Darkness posted a new song from their upcoming sophomore album, Adversary Omnipotent. Look for that on July 14th. (TovH Premiere)
- Beyond Grace are streaming their new album over at NCS. I liked this one quite a lot, and I recommend everyone give it a listen. Seekers comes out tomorrow.
- Normally, anything new Archspire-related would be grounds for me spamming their name in all caps, but I just want to emphasize how much better “Involuntary Doppelganger” sounds than anything on Lucid Collective. It’s fast, even for them, but the production feels so much better this time around. Check out that lyric video and fantastic artwork at the link above, and look for Relentless Mutation on September 22nd.
Origin’s last album, 2014’s Omnipresent, seems to have left some people cold. While I can’t hold too much against it- it was my introduction to the band and is still one of my go-to albums when I’m in the mood for some grindy tech death- I can understand the complaints. Musically, it felt like a more straightforward Entity, hitting many of the same beats without going in the wild directions of its predecessor. On top of that, it was Jason Keyser’s debut with the band, and changing vocalists will always inevitably alienate some fans. Still, Omnipresent was by no means a bad album, and it set the groundwork for their newest, Unparalleled Universe.
That said, this album shouldn’t be viewed as simply being more Omnipresent. It’s similar stylistically, but the band branches out a bit more on universe. The songs are given more time to develop, leading to more individually memorable moments within the album’s overarching chaotic swirl. “Cascading Failures, Diminishing Returns” and “Burden of Prescience” are loaded with hooks despite their incredible speed (the former also having one of the best outros on the album), and I’d go so far as to describe the latter half of the 10-minute closing track of the album proper as downright soulful. Even the shorter, more unhinged songs have parts that stick, simultaneously reflecting on the band’s roots while maintaining a more coherent structure. I’m not a huge fan of the album’s production- it’s super compressed- but you can actually hear the bass this time around, giving the music some added dimension that somewhat offsets its flat sound. That aside, I’m very pleased with the direction of Unparalleled Universe: it’s a solid step up from Omnipresent that sees the band doing more than simply sticking to their guns.
Unparalleled Universe is out now.
I don’t think I need to remind anyone of how long it’s been since we last heard from Decrepit Birth. Thankfully, the wait is nearly over; Axis Mundi is just around the corner, and we’ve got a couple new tunes to jam while we wait. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing the album in full, and let me tell you, you won’t be disappointed. This is the same Decrepit Birth you know and love, but with a few new tricks at their disposal.
First off, this album is heavy. Maybe it’s the improved production, or the more robust bass and vocals, or maybe it’s just been too long since I’ve listened to Polarity or Diminishing Between Worlds, but I don’t remember the band ever sounding quite this beefy before. They seem to have a newfound affinity for the bottom end; “Hieroglyphic” in particular demonstrates this with its churning main riff and hazy middle section. “Transcendental Paradox” and “Mirror of Humanity” keep this trend going, but with a bit more of that imposing, regal feeling of the band’s older material. A lot of the riffs on Axis lean more towards traditional death metal than prior works, but they’re capped with fills or layered in odd harmonies that still give them the band’s distinct flavor. The guitar acrobatics are as impressive as they’ve ever been, and the unpredictable ebb and flow of each song ensures the pacing never lags. Axis Mundi is a welcome return of a band that has been too long from the spotlight and proof that they haven’t lost a step in their absence.
Axis Mundi is out on July 21st.
Wait! Come back! I know Rings of Saturn have long been the subject of derision from much of the metal community (ourselves included), and I’m right there with you, but hear me out on this one. I’ve never been a fan of their overly-processed sound or how they took deathcore tropes to the extreme, and the constant accusations that they couldn’t replicate their performances live didn’t help. It should mean something then when I say that I’m one hundred percent on board with Ultu Ulla.
I think the biggest reason for this turnaround is the addition of Miles Dimitri Baker of Interloper on guitar (whose music you should prime yourself on if you’re not already familiar). Given a hand in writing, his more melodic touch is present throughout the album and helps make this a much more cohesive effort than anything the band has put out in the past. Don’t get me wrong; this is still Rings of Saturn. You’re still going to hear all kinds of crazy guitar noodling, breakdowns, and artificial instrument tone, but it feels like more than just window dressing this time around. The breakdowns have direction and variance, evolving as they progress with rhythmic mixups and short bursts of shredding. Noise gating is used more strategically, particularly in one break on “Immemorial Essence” that uses it to alter the tone rather than simply clean up mistakes. The “alien sounds” are better integrated into the regular riffing than before (which itself has seen a substantial upgrade); they generally aren’t the centerpiece of the music anymore, and the band keeps up their extraterrestrial theme by building atmosphere. And that music is good! “Prognosis Confirmed” has some infectious grooves, and “The Macrocosm” is one of the best instrumental tracks I’ve heard all year. Rings of Saturn have reinvented themselves as a tighter, more focused unit that simultaneously plays to their strengths while covering their weaknesses.
Ultu Ulla is out on July 28th.
That’s all I’ve got for this week; hopefully, at least one of these will tickle your fancy. I know I was pleasantly surprised by more than one of them. Until next time,
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