Technical Tuesday

Technical Tuesday – Why Rubber Belongs in Metal

I really dig on old-fashioned progressive/technical death metal, especially in the style of Atheist and the like. Today, I want to highlight one of my favorite features of said music – a very rubbery sounding bass guitar that isn’t afraid to play leads. I just can’t get enough of that loose, thick, slapping bass sound.

To demonstrate this sound I have chosen two albums, one recent, and one older. Both exemplify this bass sound not only in production, but also in the role of the bass guitar, allowing it to step into the forefront and lead the song, rather than get buried to the point of being indecipherable.

The first and more recently released feature album for this Tuesday is The Aura (2011) by Beyond Creation. I can’t quite remember how I first heard this band, but I was blown away by how similar they sounded to Obscura, which I mean as a compliment of course. Showing my status as grumpy-old-metalhead, I was first really impressed by Obscura because they sounded like Atheist. But that’s not the point here.

The point here is to point out how ridiculously awesome the bass guitar on The Aura is. Dominic “Forest” Lapointe is apparently also in Augury and played with Quo Vadis, unbeknownst to me before beginning to write this column. Both bands of which I am a huge fan of – Augury soars through the clouds and Quo Vadis crosses the boundaries of reality and psychology. But back to the bass on The Aura. Lapointe’s bass leaps into the forefront of the music, bubbling and bouncing, while the guitars play support. His “rhythms” completely carry songs like “Omnipresent,” topping the riffs off like guitar squeals, while stretching the bottoms of the song like the gravity of a star, bending space and time.

The Aura is a great album (my sixth most played in the last three months) and the basswork is what sets Beyond Creation apart from the multitude of other technical death metal bands out there. Lapointe calculates trajectories and solves theoretical physics on the fretboard of his cosmic bass, battling lead-for-lead with the guitar. Even while playing surging solos, Lapointe maintains a rhythmic base, never becoming overbearing, expertly adding both crunchy stability and bending accents in songs such as “Injustice Revealed.” No question this guy is one of the most talented bass players in metal.

Tuesday’s second album is a true classic of technical death metal. The Sound of Perseverance (1998) by Death is an absolute essential for young and old metallers alike, and one of my all time personal favorites. Death was one of the originators of the death metal sound from the tombs…and then gave it up completely in favor of a more progressive tone. The Sound of Perseverance has neo-classical leanings aplenty, accented by a bass that plays more like a third guitar. Scott Clendenin’s bass creeps like a tarantula in “Scavenger of Human Sorrow,” building an ominous, unnerving tone that fits perfectly with the psychological leanings of Sound and later Death material.

“Spirit Crusher” meanders contemplatively, transcending the crypts of death metal and journeying into the “multidimensional mind,” as referenced in “Story to Tell.”  Clendenin’s bass lines lead as much as they play support, moving into the forefront during intervals and riffs alike. Like a stalking, menacing beast, the bass lines swerve and return, like a bad neurosis or mental condition. With a metallic snap, these lines add heft and crunch, while bass bending and noodling add depth and complexity in tracks like “Bite the Pain.”

Clendenin’s work on The Sound of Perseverance warbles and bends, providing a sinister backdrop to piercing leads. His work is absolutely unforgettable, making this album an essential pick when looking for the much-coveted rubbery bass sound, and one of my personal favorites of all time. Scott Clendenin’s performance on The Sound is a quintessential piece to an essential death metal classic.

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2 thoughts on “Technical Tuesday – Why Rubber Belongs in Metal”

  1. ‘The Sound of Perseverance’ is my favorite album from Death, hands down. I don’t know why it gets a bum rap with certain metalheads.

    1. I have thought about that a lot. I think the principal complaint is because of how much Death changed – think of “Scream Bloody Gore” in comparison. I think a lot of the older fans had a wide variety of Death worship, and wished for the old days. That’s my guess anyway – or maybe it was just too much prog and tech and not enough time in the crypts.

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