Top Tech of 2020
There’s an absurd amount of shit I wasn’t able to really sink my teeth into this year. Apologies to Question, Hateful, Intellect Devourer, Sweven, Odious Mortem, Killitorous, Fawn Limbs, and about a billion other bands whose material I either didn’t cover or didn’t give its due. This was a great year for metal in general, and tech death was no exception. This represents my personal top ten from the genre at large, but I’d love to hear what everyone else was jamming throughout the year. Without further ado, here’s the top tech of 2020:
I thought for the longest time that Black Crown Initiate would forever be chasing the height of their first EP; Song of the Crippled Bull remains one of my favorite records ever, and while I liked their 2016 album, I felt it didn’t quite hit that same level of quality. Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape, however, finally captures that same magic once again. Of the band’s three full-lengths, this one is easily the most cohesive and powerful, with soulful vocals and some monster riffing. It’s also noteworthy that BCI is one of a small handful of prog death bands employing the full range of 8-string guitars, which makes this sonically distinct in and of itself- never mind the mix of vocal styles and incredibly nuanced bass and percussion. A great album all around.
Carnosus – Dogma of the Deceased
Independent | Review
Tech death is right up there with thrash and power metal in genres with bands per capita that are just in it for the fun of it all, and Carnosus is just such a band. Dogma of the Deceased is the album you turn to when you want to hear musicians doing cool shit on their instruments without getting all dissonant and experimental on you. It’s melodic, it’s shreddy, it’s riffy, and it’s got some wonderfully filthy vocals. If you’re just here looking for a good time, don’t sleep on this one.
Contrarian has been steadily growing on me with each release. Each album is a little tighter than the last, a little more ambitious than before, a little catchier, just all around better. Only Time Will Tell is no exception to this, boasting some mighty performances and some excellent melodies. This is guitar worship at some of its finest, with a constant blaze of dueling harmonies and some stellar bass and drums to back it up. It also proves that prog and tech death could do with a lot more synthwave fusion. Get on that, tech musicians.
Karmacipher – Introspectrum
Infree Records | Review
It’s no secret that Karmacipher takes a lot of cues from Ulcerate (see further below for more on them), but I feel like they become a little more of their own thing with each release. Introspectrum goes places you don’t typically hear from disso-death outfits, and Karmacipher is, generally speaking, much more riff-oriented than many of their contemporaries. It’s a best of both worlds situation, giving you some meaty death metal power to supplement its crushing atmosphere. This band started off strong and has been getting better and better, and they’ve put out what is easily one of 2020’s strongest albums.
Luna’s Call – Void
Independent | Review
Look, I know I’m cheating with this one in that it’s really not a tech death album, but nothing means anything anymore and I’m arbitrating the rules here. Luna’s Call wins the award for biggest upgrade between albums; Void is so good that it’s shocking that Divinity, a mostly “fine” album, is from the same band. This is an incredible prog odyssey, the perfect listen for anyone who appreciates the spectacle of Between the Buried and Me records while wishing they were just a bit heavier. There’s no way I can do this thing justice in such a small space, so I’m not going to mince words- go listen to this thing. You won’t regret it.
Pestifer – Expanding Oblivion
Xenokorp | Review
It ought to be grounds for sainthood or a Nobel prize or something that an album this good is up at name-your-price on Bandcamp. I’m a fan of any band that’s not afraid to get weird, and Pestifer gave us an entire album of weird shit that is somehow both easily palatable and extremely banging death metal. It does just about everything as close to perfect as an album can get, too. If you’re looking for something unconventional yet easy to get into, this is what you want.
Shadow in the Darkness – Erstwhile Befell
Sliptrick Records | Review
To say that these guys sound kind of like The Faceless would be an understatement, but rather than simply being the nth band to try recreating Planetary Duality, they’ve refined and expanded upon the formula that made that album memorable. That said, calling them a clone is far too reductive; while the sound is something familiar, the way they’ve manipulated it has made it into something their own. It’s also worth noting that Erstwhile Befell features some of the fastest and tightest playing of any band on this list. It’s heavy as it is alien and creepy, and the synth touches give it that otherworldly mystical feeling that makes bands like Flub and early Inanimate Existence so enjoyable.
While I’m of the opinion that Unleash the Archers had the strongest concept album in metal overall this year, in the world of tech death, Spectrum of Delusion was unmatched. A successful marriage of music and narrative is the hallmark of a good concept album, and Neoconception shines in that regard. The music itself has to be good too, of course, and this Gorod melody meets Obscura spacey atmosphere sound they’ve got going on here is one of the coolest things in the genre as a whole right now. Also, how can you not love this lyric video? Delightful.
For my part, I’ve never thought that Ulcerate’s strongest suit was their riffs; while the instrumental work is indeed impressive, it’s about getting lost in the ambience and letting the feelings their music conjures wash over you. It’s the same reason half you dorks listen to atmoblack shit, but the difference here is that Ulcerate actually writes good music through which they evoke those feelings. Stare Into Death And Be Still is as grim and austere as its title would suggest, the music as crushing as the message behind it. A listen from start to finish is devastating, and that’s exactly what I want from this style of dissonant death metal.
Mordrake is very much a chameleon of an album, combining heavy down-tuned riffing with haunting dissonant chords, deathcore-style grooving bounce riffs, and a healthy dose of rage. It goes from mournful to seething at the drop of a hat, but not haphazardly; it’s focused and calculated in spite of its emotional extremes, and it’ll draw you in whether you’re here for the riffs or the atmosphere. I’m a big fan of the varied vocal approach, and “Grieving the Loss of Self” is one of the nastiest tunes put to pen this year. There’s some seriously good shit to hear on this album, so do yourself a favor and give it a spin if you missed it back in February.
You don’t need me to tell you how shit this year was. You lived it, and if for some reason you do want a writeup, Snooty’s not top ten is much better and more comprehensive than I could hope to do. And while some people are optimistic that we’ve reached some sort of turning point, I feel like it’s going to get a whole lot worse before anything starts to get better. But through it all, I hope that Tech Death Thursday has been and will continue to be something of a bright spot for you. I have no plans of stopping this anytime soon, so look forward to a whole lot more tech death in 2021. Thanks for sticking with me through this all, and as always,