Tech Death Thursday: Top Tech of 2019
It’s that magical time once more.
First, an apology: 2019 brought a whole lot of fuckery into my personal life, and that caused this column to suffer. This is going to be the last entry for the year, but we’re getting back into full swing in January, returning to one article a week and bringing you more tech than you’ll know what to do with. But anyway, that’s for later; for now, I’m taking a look back at ten of my personal favorite records of the year.
Allegaeon – Apoptosis
Metal Blade | Review
Listening to Apoptosis for the first time felt like meeting up with a friend who I hadn’t seen in ages. Proponent For Sentience was a good album to be sure, but I felt like it lacked staying power. Or maybe I just didn’t listen to it enough, I dunno. In any case, Apoptosis is stuffed with hooks, and their songwriting is ambitious as ever. This current lineup feels like their strongest yet, and it’s reflected in the music. It’s Allegaeon doing what they do best- smart tunes that are as catchy as they are complex- and they’re doing it better than ever.
Continuum – Designed Obsolescence
Unique Leader | Review
There were several bands this year that could have filled my “angry dudes going fast” slot on this list (Wounds, Demiurgon, and Vitriol were all top contenders), but I’ve been so hopelessly addicted to this Continuum record that I had to give them the spot. Designed Obsolescence is a pummeling machine, fast, cold, mechanical, unstoppable. The clinical production might be a turnoff for some, but it really gives that low end the kick and clarity it needs. It’s also super lean, so if you’re looking for a short, tight blast of some punchy tech death, this is it.
Disentomb – The Decaying Light
Unique Leader | Review
Disentomb is one of the best brutal death metal bands in the biz, hands down. The fast parts are complex and menacing for sure, but it’s the slower breaks that really set this album apart. Every time one of those parts comes around, it feels like you’re staring up into the face of some unfathomably huge creature. There’s a sense of inevitability to the atmosphere they create, something that doesn’t quite come out in a lot of music. Pacing issues in the front half weren’t enough to keep me from enjoying the hell out of this record.
Equipoise – Demiurgus
The Artisan Era | Review
Yeah, you knew this was gonna be here. Equipoise seriously raised the bar for melodic tech death bands this year; Demiurgus is one of the most technical and intense albums the genre has to offer. While I could have included it on this list for sheer showmanship, the songs here have way more hooks than it seems like music at this speed should be capable of. This album is a beast, and I hope that other tech death artists look at it as a challenge.
I’m also a sucker for FMA, so bonus points for that.
Flub – Flub
Flub | Flub
While Flub aren’t quite as ridiculously technical as their labelmates above, their self-titled Artisan Era debut brought tons of groove and a surprising sense of whimsy that you rarely hear in metal, let alone tech death. You also don’t hear a ton of synth stuff going on in the genre, and these guys use just enough to touch up their tunes with some unique flavor without going completely overboard. Flub is just a ton of fun, both to say and to listen to; give it a shot if you missed it earlier this year.
Freedom of Fear – Nocturnal Gates
EVP Recordings | Review
I don’t think there’s much more I could say about Freedom of Fear that either Rolderathis or myself have already said, so I’ll keep this brief. Nocturnal Gates is a prime example of genre cross-pollination, pulling in little bits of melodeath, slam, groove metal, and neoclassical into a shockingly coherent and focused album. It sounds fantastic and it’s super weird; if you’re a fan of Gojira, Death, Anachronism, or anything in between, you’re going to find something here to like.
What would a Toilet ov Hell tech death end-of-year list be without some hideous skronk? Horror God brought the goods this year on Cursed Seeds, striking an excellent balance between monster riffs and intensely uncomfortable atmosphere. It feels a lot more traditionally “death metal” than you get from a lot of bands playing the disso-death game, even with all the weird chords and bends going on. The caustic guitar tone perfectly fits the vibe of the music, too, and a Kevin Hufnagel guest spot is icing on the cake.
Human – Alizarin Refraction
Independent | Review
Human came out of basically nowhere with a new record this year, and I was honestly shocked at how good it was. Their prior album was solid, but it felt like they were defining themselves more by what other bands had done that what they wanted to do. Alizarin Refraction is a total 180 on that mindset; while the melodic prog death influence of Obscure et al is certainly present, it doesn’t sound like they’re trying to be a clone of bigger acts anymore. It’s a single 43-minute track that with some incredible flow and stellar compositions, and it should be on every tech death fan’s radar.
Unfathomable Ruination – Enraged & Unbound
Willowtip | Review
I remember hearing the single we got for this album back in September and it putting a shit-eating grin on my face almost immediately. Brutal death metal is best when it doesn’t skimp on brains in exchange for brawn, and Unfathomable Ruination embody exactly why. The progressive, melodic lines are all welcome touches, but the meat of the music- the explicitly “BDM” parts- are exemplary of what this genre can bring to the death metal table.
Xoth – Interdimensional Invocations
Independent | Review
Tech thrash is my jam, and Xoth is one of the freshest bands to hit the genre in some time. Comparisons to Voivod and Revocation are inevitable here, but these guys do an excellent job of creating their own voice; there’s an infectious, wicked playfulness throughout the proceedings, and the lead guitar work is amazing. Their melodic ideas are unique and enthralling, and you’ll never lack for headbanging riffs. Xoth has everything you could want and then some for your next interdimensional alien party.
That about does it for me. There were a ton of great tech death albums that came out this year and a lot of hard cuts had to be made, so you should definitely give some shoutouts to your personal faves in the comments. That’s all for now: I’ll see you all in 2020, and until next time,