Tech Death Thursday: Riftwalker


Tech death and doom? Has science gone too far?

More on that in a bit. First, the news:

  • Tech weirdos NYN, who have the greatest album cover of all time, premiered a new tune over at NCS. As is becoming the (more than welcome) norm of non-standard death metal, it features guest solos from Tom Geldschläger and keyboardist Jimmy Pitts, who has played on every metal album that has cast even a sideways glance towards jazz fusion. Basically, this rules, and you should be very excited for whenever Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt comes out.
  • Someone recently made me aware of a new track from Promethean (I forgot who, but they were both intelligent and quite handsome). It appears that the album it belongs to, Aloades, should be out already, but only the one song is available on Bandcamp. Hopefully we’ll see the rest of it sometime soon.
  • I made a terrible mistake in overlooking the new Symbolik album that came out last week. Check this one out for some prime weedlies (“Epicurean Paradox” in particular packs quite a punch).
  • In Reverence dropped a new song last week and have another one lined up for tomorrow. Give these guys a listen if you’re into fast death metal with some light atmospherics, and look for The Selected Breed in the near future.
  • Soreption have parted ways with guitarist Anton Svedin, which is unfortunate given how much he contributed to their sound. The band is continuing forth, however, and we may see a slight reshaping of their identity depending on who they get to fill Anton’s shoes.

I’ve joked about the idea of tech doom before, but I think it might actually be a reality now. It didn’t materialize in quite the manner I’d imagined (the general feeling of standard tech death moving through molasses, swept arpeggios at 60BPM, dirgey string-skipping riffs, etc.), but I’ll be damned if any other moniker is appropriate. Riftwalker combines technical/progressive death metal with the sound of traditional metal in a way I’ve never heard before and indeed didn’t even think was possible to make palatable. Green & Black might be the album to finally bridge the gap between tech death and the rest of the metal world.

Let me elaborate before you cry foul after hearing the first bit of “B.H.O.;” Green & Black can be divided cleanly down the middle by its sound. The first half follows the same beats as a lot of more traditional prog death bands, building off of its main themes with off-kilter riffs and shifting tempos. There’s a splash of mid-paced thrash in there and a couple hints of what’s to come in the presence of some surprisingly simple diminished and pentatonic riffs (often ending on the 7th, which is fairly common in stoner/doom bands), but it’s much more “tech” than the latter half. “Harlequin Ichthyosis” is most demonstrative of this, opening with a lightly distorted guitar groove that shortly jumps into one of the aforementioned thrash riffs, then whipping out a nasty triplet section partway through.

“Primordial Collapse” is where things start to get weird. This is when the band decides to dive straight into psychedelic territory, adding in thick phaser effects and favoring big, crunchy riffs over the surgically precise inclinations of the former half. Even the faster parts have a palpable 70’s vibe to them, though it sacrifices its technical edge to achieve this. “States Of Decay,” for example, has a rollicking triplet feel to it, but it’s underscored by a bassline reminiscent of Dominic Lapointe’s work with Beyond Creation. Even the solos take a bluesy turn, a sharp contrast to the usual hypershred that tech death artists revel in.

As a three piece, the band has to be creative to fill space and keep the music from sounding thin, but they manage to achieve this even with minimal layering of guitars. This is in large part due to the excellent production. Each instrument is given plenty of room to breathe, but they each swell to fill the space. The bass feels massive and punchy, the drums are dynamic, and the guitar has a warm, earthy tone that makes those big chords feel that much thicker. Getting this album to sound as good as it does is an impressive feat from both a songwriting and engineering perspective, and it’s a damn fine listen throughout.

Green & Black is one of the most unique albums I’ve heard from the tech death world in some time, and I’m not sure there’s another band out there that sounds quite like Riftwalker. Even if you’re not a fan of tech death, I would give this one a shot; there’s more than enough to like here. You can follow Riftwalker on Facebook and purchase Green & Black from Bandcamp or Bigcartel. That’s all for this week, and until next time,

Stay Tech

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