This week the venerable Spear is off on a joyous quest doing spear things; staying tech, being shiny, mocking morbidly obtuse poles, and some general poking. In his absence, I’m going to highlight a couple of tech-death releases that have impressed me so far this year.
Contrary to popular
demand belief, I haven’t disappeared from the plane of existence completely. And contrary to my 2016 bandcamp history, I still listen to tech-death from time to time. Hi, I’m Lacertilian, you might remember me from such tech-death related articles as The Producer Series, Enthean Priests of Annihilation review, Enthean stream/interview, and exactly zero others of note. Today I’m going to share with you two bands that deserve to get some more coverage in this filthy over-flowing latrine. One band is called Mephistopheles, and the other Australis. One band hails from Australia, and the other from Minneapolistopheles. You’ll never guess which is which. Unless you do.
First up are Tasmania’s Mephistopheles. This quartet first came to my attention when, as a rabid fan of Psycroptic‘s seminal Scepter Of The Ancients album, I wanted to find out what happened to their singular vocalist Chalky after he left the band in the mid-2000’s. The story is that Chalky supposedly didn’t want to commit to the overseas touring schedule Psycroptic were on the cusp of following their (now considered) classic album, preferring to stay local in the humble hamlet of Hobart (Yes, it’s Tasmania’s capital city but I’ve been there, it’s a fucking village on its busiest day. Quaint is the leading cause of death there). Aside from a stint in genre-overlords Spawn Of Possession and a few other lesser known projects (Iciclan, M.S.I, etc.), Mesphistopheles keeps him busy. So far the band have composed two albums and an EP, and 2016 marks the release of their second EP In Reverence Of Forever.
These 5 tracks of somewhat progressively structured death metal follow what you might expect to hear after reading the aforementioned band names – skillful, spasmodic tech-death that focuses on the weirder side of things, as opposed to the weedlier side of things. You will not be bombarded with a series of fickle sweep arpeggios, monotone vocals, and several shades of the sonic equivalent of purple alien effluvium. The riffing is angular and even jazzy at times, but guitar tone isn’t so squeaky clean that you think you’re listening to a sentient roomba with a severe excess of mysophobia. As usual, Chalky’s lyrics are densely laid-out and intricately themed. One could spend an entire [insert appropriate unit of time] just analysing them alone. Over the last decade it seems he’s managed to keep his unique approach to not only lyric writing, but to the way he spits them out. While not as erratic as he may have sounded in the past, his range remains boundless; Chalky’s style is still undeniably captivating. Shrieks, grunts, howls, you name it, he yells it.
As someone who staunchly defends instrumental music, I rarely give two fucks about vocals, especially if the vocalist doesn’t play a damn instrument. The fact I’ve spent nearly the entire last paragraph rambling about the vocals here shows that in this case I definitely make an exception. If this charismatic performance doesn’t hook you, then the cohesive balance between irregular riffing patterns and catchy repeating licks will. Ben Lawless’ guitar-work that is on display during the 22 minute run-time never approaches the tedious predictability or overtly contrived fret-fuckery that many of the popular bands in the genre seem content to allow to occur WAY too often. Overall, this is a solid EP that has kept me well entertained over the last few months and should serve you well. Pick up In Reverence Of Forever from Willowtip for the grand price of bugger-all from their bandcamp page.
Next up is Minnesota’s Australis. Prior to this debut album I’d not heard of this duo before, as save for a couple of demos and an EP, they hadn’t released anything, so get off my scrotum already. No, seriously, do you think I just have time to sit around with “Austral” saved to a hot-key, spamming all manner of search engines around the clock to keep up on things that may or may not have anything to do with Australia? Of course you don’t. That would be a stupid thing to think about. Instead of doing that, you should have been listening to Australis’ debut Spaces Of Hope, you idiot.
Imagine a world where Gorod took more influence from the blackened realm, instead of the jazzy side of things. If that’s too imposing a task for your post-Wednesday mindset, or you’re just an incompetent lazy fuck like me, Australis have done all the imagine-y bits for us. Just hit play! The way in which the band progress through their tracks, shifting from brief moments of ferocity to perplexing slower sections where emphasis falls onto unexpected moments within the riffs, Australis manage to keep things interesting throughout what could otherwise be considered a daunting 50+ minute run-time. According to their bandcamp page, some of the lyrics have been adapted from Edgar Allen Poe’s Dreamland, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. They could be lying though; you’ll have to check that for yourself, as everytime I listen I can’t help but be enthralled with the quality rifffffffs.
The chops are worthy of pretty much anything from Gorod’s latest two albums of technical mastery. In fact, if you told me that some of these songs were bonus tracks from A Perfect Absolution, I would sincerely believe you. Sure, you’d be a total arsehole using your superior simian cognitive function to prey upon a poor reptile’s gullibility, to an unknown and most likely useless endgame, but still, I wouldn’t question you. In fact, this album is also a great accompaniment to the above EP from Mephistopheles. Both bands play the type of tech-death I’m drawn to. I’m not clever enough to come up with a quasi-sub-genre name for it, so you can down in the comments. If this debut doesn’t see this highly talented band breakthrough to the upper echelons of tech-supremacy then I fully expect their follow-up to do so, as it is obvious the band have been endowed with ample talent and inspiration. That is of course, unless they exhausted it all in creating this stellar introduction. You can pick up Spaces Of Hope for $5 from their bandcamp page, and/or head over to their facebook page and tell them their music makes the Toilet flap its lid in approval.
Do you have a band you would like to see featured? A new release we should keep an eye on? Or maybe you want to do some writing yourself? Then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and make your voice heard!