Tech Death Thursday: Spectrum of Delusion – Neoconception
Strap yourselves in, folks, it’s a weird one.
You may remember when plucky Dutch upstarts Spectrum of Delusion released their debut a couple years ago, making a splash despite coming out amidst bigger, more anticipated releases from bands such as Enfold Darkness and Inanimate Existence (both of which are now their labelmates). Or perhaps, if you’re like me and are in a perpetual state of goldfish-brain, you might more clearly remember when we premiered “Into Another Formation” earlier this summer. Either way, if you’ve heard Spectrum of Delusion, they’re a band that sticks with you; they have a way of approaching progressive tech death in an unconventional but wholly palatable way, similar to Obscura’s Cosmogenesis in spirit if not necessarily in sound. With a debut album has stood the test of time so well (no joke, the CD has been in my driving rotation since 2017), it’s hard to imagine them topping it, but they may have done just that with Neoconception.
While Esoteric Entity was quite listenable in spite of its weirdness (or because of it if you’re into that sort of thing, I’m not judging), Neoconception is a much smoother listen by design. The band states that they wanted to really emphasize the “death metal” part of “technical death metal,” which resulted in paring down on the janky tempo and time signature changes for more fluid, congruous listening experience. The first half of the album or so- “Downfall” up through “Welcome Death-” all flows together, and the songs are each short enough that it feels like one continuous piece. While I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s more “death metal” than “tech death,” even in its more headbanging parts, the shift in experimental focus from structure to melody means your brain doesn’t have to work overtime following the tune while still treating your ears to something unique.
If that jaunty, off-kilter feel of the debut was what you liked about it, take heart; the second half of the album doubles down on that, almost as if it’s trying to make up for the first half. “Await the Transition/Into Another Formation” represent the most straightforward songs on the latter half, which should give you an idea of how wild it is. The latter of those two mixes some classic menacing tech death guitar duels with a more lighthearted Gorod-style melody, moving into the ethereal “Bringing Serenity” and dropping the hammer on “Destruction.” But for all its complexity, it’s still very listenable; I’m not sure exactly what it is, but something about their approach to melody on these songs feels more intuitive than on their debut, so it still flows even through multiple time and tempo changes.
This distinct split in feel between each half of the album works very well from a conceptual standpoint. “Downfall” opens the album up with a series of news broadcast-style voice over that talks about the inevitable approach of a meteor that will wipe out life on earth when it hits- it’s a cool setup, and the general vibe reminds me of “Planetary Duality I” in the best way (which I still maintain is the best use of a sample in any death metal song ever). The frenzy of the songs that follow perfectly represent the panic and distress accompanying that announcement, with a total change in feel coming when the protagonist enters a program that will allow his consciousness to be uploaded to a computer and sent into space. It’s a cool way to tie together the narrative and the music.
I’m a fan of the mix present here, too. Each instrument sounds more or less the same as their debut, with that ever-forward fretless bass sound we all know and love complementing a dark and mellow guitar tone that’s fairly unusual for tech death. However, nothing on Neoconception sounds quite as loud as its predecessor, making each instrument sound more dynamic and clear. The acoustic guitars (performed by Nick Padovani of Equipoise and Virulent Depravity) have depth and warmth, and they sound great with everything else. I’m rarely a stickler for production, but I definitely appreciate it when something sounds as good as this.
In case I haven’t made it entirely clear, Neoconception is a fantastic album, a perfect balance of progressive songwriting and catchy riffing. I can see this being considered a gateway album to progressive death metal; that first half does such a good job of easing you into their sound before hitting you with all the super out-there stuff, but even that all jams hard, too. For anyone already into progressive and technical music, this is required listening.
Neoconception is out on Friday, September 11th via The Artisan Era through either their web store or Bandcamp. You can find Spectrum of Delusion on Facebook; be sure to show them some love if you like what you heard today. That’s all for now, so until next time,