Tech Death Thursday: Proliferation – Woodborn
I’ve finally had ample time for the new Proliferation album to sink in. The verdict? Very woody.
- I don’t recall Book of Suffering – Tome I to be particularly memorable (literally, I can’t recall one moment of it), but god damn if the new Cryptopsy track isn’t an absolute banger. Check out “Sire of Sin” and get ready for Book of Suffering – Tome II on October 26th.
- If that somehow wasn’t beefy enough for you, this new tune from Anisoptera should do the trick. Spawn of Odonata comes out tomorrow, and you can bet on it being meaty as hell.
- Arsis hit us with a new track last Thursday, and I’m way fucking into it. Look for Visitant on November 2nd, out via Nuclear Blast in the Americas and Agonia Records everywhere else.
- Psycroptic also dropped a new track last week, and you will be shocked to learn that it is fast as fuck. We Were the Keepers releases on November 9th through Prosthetic Records.
Our band today will likely ring some bells with anyone who’s been around the Toilet for awhile; Proliferation first graced our nidorous waters in 2016 with Rebirth: The Journey Through Soil, showcasing a penchant for unconventional songwriting and riff structure. Now they’re back with Woodborn, their first full-length album, and the intervening years between the two records has been very kind to their sound. Woodborn picks up the story right where Journey left off and, fittingly, is an upgrade to everything that made their last EP stand out.
That narrative is important, too; this is one of those rare metal albums where the music is intrinsically linked to the story it tells. The mood, the pace- everything that’s happening at a given point in a song is reflective of what’s happening in the story. While there’s a prevailing air of mystery about it as the narrator explores the world he awakens to, the music turns jubilant and empowering as he tests his powers, discordant as he faces his troubled past, and frantic as danger approaches. Proliferation aims to take you on a journey with this album, and with storytelling intravenous to their songwriting, they do it in a way that doesn’t feel forced or contrived.
The other elements of Woodborn, things that are typically more paratextual to a studio album- the mix, the tone, the engineering- also play a greater part in the way it unfolds than one typically sees with a metal record, particularly in the realm of tech death. For example, it’s pretty easy to listen to an Obscura song without thinking about the effect that production changes between albums have on their overarching narrative; that’s not the point of the music. Proliferation made a point of having a natural engineering job with Journey, which is part of what makes it so unique. By contrast, Woodborn is much cleaner cut (ultimately to its benefit), but the music itself is much more reflective of the natural world its protagonist is trying to connect to.
To that end, the band has slowed down quite a bit compared to their previous efforts. Yes, there are still parts that are plenty fast and tense, but this is much more reserved in temperament than the last time we heard them. It’s meditative and atmospheric; I know some of you are recoiling at the prospect of hearing yet another album laden with Fallujahisms, but it’s not like that at all. No, the atmosphere here is more akin to bands like Alda or Thrawsunblat, reveling in the beauty of the forest. The “tech” aspect of the music isn’t in the band’s raw virtuosity, but in their composition. As previously stated, the structure follows the narrative rather than normal verse/chorus conventions, and the band’s grasp of counterpoint and nontraditional harmonies rivals the genre’s best. The addition of acoustic guitars, keys, and clean vocals (which I can really only describe as “pleasant”) helps keep things fresh and interesting with a variety of textures.
If there’s a caveat to any of this, it’s that Woodborn is much slower-paced than many of its tech death counterparts. Prog fans won’t find any issue here, but if you’re looking for frenetic riffing and dazzling displays of technical skill, you’ll likely find yourself growing impatient with this one. It is a slow burn, to be sure, despite clocking in at a fairly standard 43 minutes. The band takes their time exploring ideas and establishing themes in order to draw you in; it’s great for anyone who really likes to dig into the music they listen to, but less so for casual listening. That Alda comparison wasn’t just for aesthetics- you really will get the most out of Woodborn if you approach it with the same mindset as you would for that type of nature-worshiping black metal.
All told, Woodborn is a fantastic piece of prog death. It’s emotionally captivating and filled with clever musicianship, cerebral as it is passionate. It shows tremendous growth from the band as musicians, and I very much look forward to seeing where they go next. Woodborn is available now on Bandcamp, and you can follow Proliferation on Facebook. That’s all for this time, so until next week,
Is your band tech as heck? Got a juicy piece of news or an upcoming release to watch? Send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll check it out. I might even talk about it.