It’s been quite a while since I did one of these (over a year, to be slightly more precise), but frankly there hasn’t been a whole lot of new stuff on the brutality front that’s really tripped my trigger of late. In fact, it’s only been within the past month or so that enough gory goodies have piled up to make it worth doing. The initial two installments of Oodles of Brutals were all about slam and brutal death metal, but this time around we’ll mostly be focusing on tech death. I’m pretty darn picky about this stuff, as there is an extremely fine line between mind-bending technicality and “Hey, look what we can do!” fret-wankery, so it’s a bit of a surprise that so much of this stuff has been able to grab me, but it’s a neck-snappingly pleasant one. Let’s dive in…
First up is New York’s Artificial Brain, who recently released their debut album, Labyrinth Constellation, and let me tell ya somethin’ brother, it’s a doozy. I never thought I’d see the day when a full-on tech death band would wind up on Profound Lore; that’s not meant as a knock, it’s just that the label’s previous death metal outings have largely been of the murky, primitive variety ala Impetuous Ritual and Grave Miasma, so a band like Artificial Brain is an interesting (and welcomed) change of pace. Leave it to Herr Bruni to totally flip the script just when you think you have his taste in a genre pegged.
Of course, Artificial Brain’s stock-in-trade isn’t the clinical, squeaky-clean tech death you’d get from a label like Unique Leader or Willowtip. Instead, Labyrinth Constellation is rife with atmosphere, and there’s a lot of space for the instruments to breath, which is quite a shock to system for those of us used to the claustrophobic, brick-walled mixes typical to the style. Recorded/mixed/mastered by Colin Marston at Thousand Caves, the album is infused with grit ‘n’ grime aplenty, resulting in one of the most organic-sounding examples of the genre I’ve heard since Gorguts’ Colored Sands.
In fact, Artificial Brain are quite similar to Gorguts in that they strive to create utterly alien soundscapes through flurries of warped instrumental carnage, making you feel as though you’ve landed smack dab in the middle of the intergalactic battle depicted by Paolo Girardi’s cover art. This is some seriously wild-sounding stuff, evoking the dark underbelly of science fiction… I’m not a sci-fi buff by any means, so the best comparison I can come with is the first Star Wars film; while the technology is way more advanced than anything we’ll ever experience, it still looks dirty and dilapidated as hell.
Labyrinth Constellation is a ridiculously ambitious debut effort, especially coming from a band that’s only been together since 2009. The songwriting could maybe use a little more tightening and focus in a few spots, but Artificial Brain have proven here that they have the chops and the desire to eventually give bands such as Wormed a run for the sci-fi death metal crown. Tech death freaks looking for a refreshingly unique take on the style would do extremely well to pick this up ASAP.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Abysmal Torment, who are set to release their third album, the skull-dozing Cultivate the Apostate, through Willowtip Records on April 29th. There’s absolutely nothing whatsoever organic-sounding about the racket this Maltese sextet whips up, in fact it pretty much sounds like the Decepticons decided to try their hand at recording a brutal death metal album. Normally, I would consider this to be a pretty big detractor, but the thing is, Abysmal Torment fucking own the the sound they’ve chosen for themselves. When other bands create similar sounding recordings, it sounds unintentional, but in listening to Cultivate the Apostate you get the distinct impression that Abysmal Torment demanded to sound like an army of emotionless killing machines.
Musically, Cultivate the Apostate is beyond relentless. Abysmal Torment absolutely refuse to let up, and as a result listening to the album feels a bit like having your head smashed repeatedly between two concrete blocks, and I mean that in the best way possible. At just over an hour, this can also make it feel like a bit of an endurance test, but the band throw in lots of cool riffs, each one more brutalizing than the next, so you’ll probably be compelled to listen to the whole thing just to marvel at how many absolute crushers they can cram into sixty-one minutes. Fortunately, Abysmal Torment seem to realize that if you’re going to subject your fans to this much ear-punishment in one sitting, you’d better damn well make it interesting, and there’s something morbidly fascinating about the non-stop, front-to-back brutality that these guys bring to the table.
Cultivate the Apostate isn’t an album I could listen to all the time, but when I’m in the mood for this kind of unyielding synthetic beating, there’s nothing better. This is another one that old school death metal fans will probably hate with a passion because of the production choices, but those who want to hear what it would sound like if Megatron and his armada took up musical instruments and converted them into weapons of mass destruction will enjoy the living shit out of this. An acquired taste, but one well worth seeking out.
Earlier I mentioned squeaky-clean technical death metal from Unique Leader, and speak of the devil, here it is. Indeed, Soreption’s Engineering the Void is as cold and clinical as it gets, yet it’s also oddly catchy. These Swedes can play circles around just about anybody in the game, but they don’t let this virtuosity get in the way of excellent songwriting, which is pretty darn rare for a band creating music so complex.
Soreption often incorporate the lurching rhythms Meshuggah helped popularize, but unlike their countrymen, they never slip into the monotony of repetition (and don’t you dare call them djent). They also benefit from the vocal versatility of frontman Fredrik Soderberg, who utilizes a variety of barks, shouts and growls to get the job done, lending a human element to Soreption’s cruelly precise musical attack. In fact these guys might be the tightest band covered in this edition of OoB, as each track on Engineering the Void is a tightly wound death metal smart-bomb that’s er, engineered for maximum impact.
Personally, I’d love to see what would happen if these guys got a little loose and a little weird, but as it stands, Engineering the Void is a damn near perfect pure technical death metal album that should impress even those who aren’t big on the style thanks to the depth of songwriting. The question is, how much farther can they take their blend of technicality and memorability without sacrificing one or the other? I don’t know the answer, but I’m looking forward to more from this band and I’m enjoying the hell out of having my brain scrambled by this album.
Embryonic Devourment are crafty veterans at this point, having released three albums worth of tech death that’ll alter your brainwaves to the point where you just might start believing that every aspect of our society is being controlled by reptilian overlords. The Californians have always been wickedly impressive, but they continue to show true progression with each release. Their latest album Reptilian Agenda is an exercise in state-of-the-art playing filtered through an old school death metal lens, hearkening back to the days when this stuff wasn’t so damn antiseptic.
Reptilian Agenda is one of those rare modern tech death albums that could appeal to fans of classic tech-leaning DM, as Embryonic Devourment’s riff-mazes have more in common with the subgenre’s progenitors such as Gorguts, Death, Morbid Angel and Atheist than they do with anything contemporary. Sure, they can hold their own with their peers as far as musical prowess, but they’re coming from a place that’s rooted in death metal’s glory days, and where I come from that’s no bad thing. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear music this intricate that still sounds like it’s being played by human beings.
Much like Soreption (albeit with much more grit), Embryonic Devourment are about creating great music first and foremost; their considerable ability as players is merely a means to an end. A band full of virtuoso musicians means nothing if there’s no substance behind the whirlwind of notes, and Reptilian Agenda is the work of a band who understands this implicitly. This is some beautifully organic brutality that’s well worth your time if you dig seizure-inducing riffage, but tire of the sterility that usually entails.
Embryonic Devourment will be heading out on tour in April with Abolishment of Flesh and The Opaque. Dates are as follows.
April 18 – Modesto, CA @ Sky Lounge
April 19 – Los Angeles, CA @ Characters Pomona
April 20 – Las Vegas, NV @ Cheyenne Saloon
April 21 – Reno, NV @ TBA
April 22 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Burt’s Tiki Lounge
April 23 – Fort Collins, CO @ Aggie Theater
April 24 – Kansas City, MO @ The Scene, KC Rock Bar
April 25 – Milwaukee, WI @ Metal Grill (NYDM Bash)
April 26 – Milwaukee, WI @ Metal Grill (NYDM Bash)
April 27 – Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
April 29 – Oklahoma City, OK – TBA
April 30 – Amarillo, TX @ Wreck Room
May 1 – Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
May 2 – Gilbert, AZ @ Crabby Dons
One man bands are responsible for some of the sickest shit in the brutal death metal game (see: Putrid Pile, Insidious Decrepancy, etc.) and with The Murderous Inception, Australia’s Gaped is poised to join the pantheon. Sole madman Ryan Huthnance is clearly a fan of Chris Barnes-era Cannibal Corpse and even turns in a faithful rendition of the classic “Striped, Raped and Strangled” to close out this vicious little EP, but it’s the original cuts that are the highlight here, as the likes of “Let the Cutting Begin” and “Skin Suit” are every bit as catchy and pulverizing as anything the Floridian masters unleashed during their heyday. Who needs other musicians when you can whip up this kind of ultra-violence all by your lonesome?
The Murderous Inception clocks in at just shy of twenty-three minutes, which is the perfect duration for music as pummeling as what Gaped unleashes here. It’s an enjoyable, highly satisfying six-track beating that might just have you begging for more. Props to Lacerated Enemy Records for springing Huthnance from whatever hospital for the criminally insane he was rotting in (this is purely speculation on my part, of course) and locking him in a room full of instruments.
I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing the entire album yet, but if the teaser tracks for Stages of Decomposition’s debut album Piles of Rotting Flesh are anything to go by, this might be the slam album to beat in 2014. These guys are heavy as all hell and definitely know how to bring the big-ass slams without getting monotonous, plus they get bonus points for the varied vocal approach that doesn’t rely solely on pig squeals. I’ll have more on these guys once I get a chance to take in the full album (it should be out via Gore House Productions by the time you read this), but for now the two slamtastic teaser tracks are below for your listening displeasure.
Lastly, a bit more tour news; Chicago quintet Broken Hope released a pretty killer comeback album last year in the form of Omen of Disease, which sees the band returning from a decade-plus layoff with a re-tooled lineup. They’ve been touring heavily since the album came out and they’re getting ready to head out again later this month on a package tour that also includes Oodles of Brutals alumni Fallujah. I can’t speak for the other bands, but I have a feeling these two alone will bring devastation aplenty to your town, so be sure to try and catch them when they come through. Dates are as follows.
Mar. 18 – Tempe, AZ @ Joe’s Grotto
Mar. 19 – Pomona, CA @ Glasshouse
Mar. 20 – Los Angeles, CA @ Whisky A Go Go
Mar. 21 – Las Vegas, NV @ Southern Nevada Sports Centre
Mar. 22 – Lancaster, CA @ Industry Theater
Mar. 23 – San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge
Mar. 24 – Reno, NV @ Jub Jubs
Mar. 25 – Portland, OR @ Branx
Mar. 26 – Seattle, WA @ Studio 7
Mar. 27 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret
Mar. 28 – Edmonton, AB @ Pawn Shop
Mar. 29 – Calgary, AB @ Golden Age Club
Mar. 31 – Winnipeg, MB @ Park Theater
Apr. 1 – Minneapolis, MN @ Skyway Theater
Apr. 2 – Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave
Apr. 3 – Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
Apr. 4 – Joliet, IL @ Mojoe’s
Apr. 6 – Toronto, ON @ Hard Luck
Apr. 8 – Quebec City, QC @ Le Dagobert
Apr. 9 – Ottawa, ON @ Mavericks
Apr. 11 – Montreal, QC @ Underworld
Apr. 12 – Springfield, VA @ Empire
Apr. 13 – Wilmington, DE @ Mojo 13
Apr. 15 – Reading, PA @ Reverb
Apr. 16 – New York, NY @ Gramercy Theater
Apr. 17 – Worcester, MA @ Palladium **New England Metal and Hardcore Festival**
Apr. 18 – Cleveland, OH @ Agora Ballroom
Apr. 19 – Columbus, OH @ Alrosa Villa
That wraps it up for this edition of Oodles of Brutals. Until next time, keep on rotting in the free world…