Tech Death Thursday: Pestifer – Expanding Oblivion

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It’s finally tech death time once more, and I’m super excited about today’s record.

Before that, some news:

  • Symbolik dropped a new tune yesterday, and it brings weedlies and deedlies aplenty. Check out “Augury of Ancients” if you want some clean, creative shredding and look for Emergence on April 10th via The Artisan Era.
  • Speaking of sweet upcoming Artisan Era releases, Myth of I also just dropped a new song, and it jams super fucking hard. Their self-titled debut also drops on April 10th.
  • Not sure how seriously this should be taken, but Revocation might be working on their new album. Fingers crossed.

Albums that do everything right are a rare breed in any style of music, but I feel like tech death is one of the hardest genres to make work a hundred percent. Rely too much on virtuosity or experimentation and you sacrifice memorability. Your tone has to be clean, but not too clean, or it becomes sterile and robotic. Lean too hard into melody and oops, now you’re a Necrophagist clone. This isn’t to say that an album can’t be great in spite of not checking all these boxes, and besides, it makes those that do stand out all the more.

I believe that Expanding Oblivion, the latest from Belgian prog/tech band Pestifer, is one of those elusive beasts that strikes a near-perfect balance of all these aspects. To be clear, it’s not going to be the perfect album for everyone in all situations- speed freaks will get more out of a band like Archspire, and it never goes quite as contemplative and ethereal as Contrarian– but it accomplishes everything it sets out to do, and it does quite a lot.

Opening track “The Remedy” does a pretty good job of showing what the band is all about, but if you want a quick sample of everything they have to offer, “Ominous Wanderers” best captures the band’s sonic identity. It’s not too far off from the most recent Augury album or the more experimental side of early Obscura, opening up with a strange chord progression in a weird time signature that’s anchored by a staccato fretless bass line. They build off this progression in creative and unexpected but intuitive ways; the band has a knack for surprising your ear, going down when you expect them to go up, changing time signatures on a dime, and so on. Their flow is impeccable in spite of this, and it makes each of these myriad twists and turns pleasant. It never once feels like a chore to listen to, and no part ever overstays its welcome.

“Silent Spheres” is a perfect chaser for “Ominous Wanderers,” simultaneously dialing up both the aggression and weirdness with a tense, spidery intro melody and a beefy tremolo attack before slowing into an eerie crawling riff. It’s on this track that the band really comes into their own; while it still sounds like the aforementioned prog death stalwarts, the persistent tension and ferocious vocals make the whole thing sound much more menacing than you get from a lot of prog bands. Despite all its big-brain riffs and progressions, it constantly reminds you that this is indeed a death metal album, and I love it for that.

On top of the excellent songwriting and performances, the record sounds fantastic. The guitars are crunchy, but not so saturated with gain that they feel choked. The bass and vocals both sit really well in the mix, forward enough that they’re always audible and distinct, but not overlapping anything else. The drums are the highlight of the engineering job though, dynamic, punchy, and organic. It’s the perfect production job for this album.

It probably goes without saying at this point, but Expanding Oblivion is one of my favorite releases of 2020 so far, and it’s far and away the one I’ve listened to the most. It’s a progressive and strange beast for sure, but it’s extremely listenable as well. I hadn’t heard of Pestifer until recently, but they’ve made me a fan with this new release. You can get a copy for yourself at Xenokorp’s web store and Bandcamp, and you can find Pestifer on Facebook. That’s all for now, and until next time,

Stay Tech

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