I started the Technical Tuesday column as way to highlight a variety of technical bands. So far, the column has been a major success (in my eyes at least), allowing me to write about technical music in a variety of formats: to show a scattering of bands; to highlight personal favorites (Atheist’s Jupiter); to comment on how bands have changed through their careers (Origin); to give more insight into a band that will be featured in an upcoming TDM staff review (Cattle Decapitation); and, in general, to give praise where praise is due.
This week’s column falls into the category of that last idea, to focus on a band that I think deserves more mention. In general I try to keep my TDM album reviews current (titles released within the last month), and preferably to keep technical classics rooted in years pre-2000. This of course leaves a huge gap in years of release. What to do with those albums released after 2000 but this month? Hence, my need for Technical Tuesdays!
Today’s champion, which I have to admit was decided prior to Tuesday, is Asylon by Neuraxis. Most of my mentions of these Canadian’s 2011 release have began with “I never really listened to this band much…” and move to how there was just that extra something that caught my attention in Asylon.
First, I really dig on the visual aesthetic of Neuraxis, and the imagery evoked in my mind by the band’s sounds. I would like to offer a disclaimer that I have NOT painstakingly researched or analyzed the band’s lyrics, and that my descriptions are based ENTIRELY on album covers, song titles, and the mental imagery I personally get from the sound of the band. I may be completely wrong, which I am fine with, because I think part of enjoying any music is making it your own.
That being said, 2005’s Trilateral Progression transmits a sense of futuristic civilization to me. Song titles like “Shatter the Wisdom” and “Chamber of Guardians” further this imagery, moving into a realm of sociology, and, to me, social commentary. I imagine futuristic worlds of light and open air, where the populace is happy, yet blissfully unaware, and a privileged few hold the power.
Next, The Thin Line Between, from 2008, showcases a conflict between man and machine, between society and individuality. Song titles like “Deviation Occurs” and “Standing Despite…” indicate struggle. And, maybe this is because I am looking for a particular theme, but “Darkness Prevails” and “The All and the Nothing” do not seem to bode well for man.
For me, the sonic tone of Neuraxis reminds me of what the world will look like after Skynet destroys mankind. Asylon vividly embodies this. I may be completely wrong about the subject matter, and for this I chose NOT to view lyrics as to preserve my own imagery of the band’s subject matter. In this case, I am OK with possibly being entirely wrong, because I really enjoy my current vision of the album.
With Asylon, Neuraxis perfects their specific slice of metal. Like when you hear a new a Gojira song without knowing the artist, and think to yourself OK, that HAS to be Gojira, and of course the song is by Gojira, Neuraxis has intricately assembled their own niche, the micro genre of -future-civilization-technical death metal. I intentionally chose comparison to Gojira Neuraxis deserves parallel to the famed French prog-deathers for creating a sound so absolutely HUGE.
Tracks like “By the Flesh” sound like a herd of giant alien mammoths leveling a space colony, while space stations collapse under the bouncing, recoiling, Kronos-esque riffs of “Trauma.” “Purity” lurches and trudges like a ten-ton robotic ox, reeling forward, breaking down, attempting to rise again, and then falling beneath the weight of its burden.
Part of the appeal of Neuraxis to me is that the band can tech out with the best and deliver moon-crushing riffs, but also leaves space to appreciate what’s going on. Sometimes I enjoy a non-stop barrage of weedles and drum fills, but at other times a moment of breath accents the technicality of the music. Take, for example, the slow, classical outro of closer “Left to Devour.” The song squeals and slips and turns, firing with drums falling like buckets of acid rain at the 2:50 mark, then runs full force into a lead worthy of a double take. But, what makes these moments even more noticeable are the windmilling riffs that give listeners just a quarter of a second to catch their breath…and the classical outro, where we are left to contemplate the fall of mankind.
In conclusion, Asylon triumphs and showcases a band with a clear identity, rather than faltering into mediocrity as many bands do after releasing a handful of albums. Neuraxis is releasing heavy, intricate, complex, truly technical death metal, with actual soul to it. Asylon is executed perfectly and uniquely, highlighting a band at the top of their game, and definitely worth your time and money.
As an aside, I would like to ask anyone if they see the band’s album art, song titles, and auditory progression in the same way I do. After completing the column and checking out some lyrics, I know that some songs deal more with psychology and spirituality, as opposed to mankind falling beneath a mechanical boot. Nonetheless, the actual sound of the songs transmits imagery of a robotic apocalypse to me. Does anyone think the same?