USA, Independently Released, Technical Death Metal
Jeff Hughell is the man.
Aside from his legendary bass work on Brain Drill’s full length debut, he’s done incredible live work for both Rings Of Saturn and Vile. Sure, he was talked into joining Chris Barnes’ sacrilegious perpetual joke Six Feet Under (SOMEHOW) but he certainly hasn’t abandoned even an iota of his talent. Reciprocal’s self titled debut album is more than enough proof of that. Admittedly, the other three musicians in this band were of little concern to me when I first heard of this band given how much admiration I have for Jeff and his talent. My dismissal was rather rash when it came to the drummer and guitarist, however my initial impression of the vocalist still stands; cookie-cutter. Jacob Enfinger’s growls sound like a failed attempt at recreating Dennis Röndum’s vocal stylings. Not to say that he’s a bad vocalist per se, but I do think Reciprocal should consider moving forward as an instrumental outfit. The best portions of this release are all directly due to Andy McLeod’s surprisingly meaty guitar work, Jeff Hughell doing what he’s always done best and Dustin Perle’s extremely satisfying blast beats, even if the production quality was hardest on him.
‘Reciprocal’s instrumental work is a step above the stereotype of Californian Tech-Death albums (heavily polished wanking, which is debatable) but the proceedings are stifled by the decision to include vocals. This is a problem a lot of cleanly produced tech-death suffers from without an extraordinary vocalist. Enfinger’s vocals are one of the loudest elements on the album’s mix when the most interesting part of Reciprocal is their instrumental work. There’s no great shame in acknowledging that your band isn’t suited for a vocalist. If Dino Cazares could understand that fact, Divine Heresy would ACTUALLY be worth listening to. Indeed, the number of instrumental technical death metal outfits is distressingly low in my opinion. Reciprocal could easily stand out amongst the crowd if Andy, Jeff and Dustin acknowledged that the only reason people enjoy this band is because of them and their musical gifts. There are downright brilliant moments throughout this album (0:00 – 0:44 of ‘Wrath’ for instance) that are then completely hampered by growls. As strange as it may seem for me to acknowledge that Death Metal can be hampered by growls, there are distinct cases where it’s the stone cold truth. Imagine if Blotted Science recruited a vocalist. Their entire musical paradigm would collapse. Even if say, Sleep Terror decided to recruit Matti Way, one of my all time favorite Death Metal vocalists, I would STILL oppose the idea based on the unavoidable fact that it would destroy the entire musical direction of Luke Jaeger’s project. I posit the exact same objection here; any growler at any point in time destroys the possibility of Reciprocal reaching their potential, which is as an entirely instrumental three piece.
As an up & coming vocalist, I feel it is IMPERATIVE to emphasize that tradition is nowhere near as important as musical fulfillment. Simply because it is accepted that a Death Metal band must have someone growling into a microphone does not mean it is essential, *especially* when discussing the technical side of the genre. To revisit Sleep Terror once again, Luke Jaeger correctly recognized that his project was complete without vocals and yet the band’s releases are undeniably technical death metal, some of the very best in my opinion. In the context of more brutal or traditional Death Metal then yes, a vocalist certainly is essential but one of the most powerful elements of tech-death is that it can function as Death Metal without a vocalist based on its instrumental merits. Now, of course the band needs to know exactly what they’re doing but Reciprocal doesn’t have that problem. Is it so inconceivable for Jeff Hughell and two other worthy musicians (which Andy and Dustin certainly are) to thrive as an instrumental testament to the virtuosity and power of tech-death? I don’t think it is. Perhaps Jeff, Andy and Dustin will come to the same conclusion some day.