Canada, you technical!
Can anyone tell me how the progressive/technical death metal scene is in Canada? Because it seems like every time I hit “play” I am stumbling over some shining gem of awesome that came from The True North.
I started to list a couple notable Canadian bands applicable to TDM.com, thinking I would list maybe three bands to get the point across. I thought of some, and then thought, “Alright, let’s check out the ‘Canada’ playlist.” And before I knew it, suddenly I had filled the paper I was writing on. For serious Canada, you real technical! Maybe something about that low population density or frigid winters causes people to stay inside and learn to play their instruments extremely well. Well, whatever it is, it works.
The following bands, listed alphabetically, are TDM mainstays, so I won’t waste your time describing them. However, if any of them are unfamiliar to you, I recommend (adamantly) checking them out: Archspire (TDM’s best album of 2011, Goshuggist: “Simply put, this is one of the greatest debuts I’ve heard period”), Augury (progressive/tech ascendancy), Beneath the Massacre (technical deathcore with mixed opinion from the TDM staff), Beyond Creation (Rimmon: “a very bright spot on the technical death metal scene”), Cryptopsy (TDM’s most posted-about band), Gorguts (InexorableRotting: “Forget everything you know about technicality, musicianship and the avant garde”), Neuraxis (modern techdeath magnificence), and Xenocide (crushing, galactic death).
Recently, we have also been posting about Dissentient (a futuristic/bleak progressive death metal band), and Exterminatus (an “extremely complex music form” in the words of TDM researcher-in-chief Rimmon).
Now, here is some of the new stuff. As I did with my post on technical grindcore, I decide to take the approach of only typing for as long as it takes to play one song by each band.
Abriosis play a style of technical death metal that borrows heavily from mathcore. If you have ever wondered what a hybrid between the two would sound like, Tattered and Bound (2011) is your answer. It’s militant, mathy and spastic like Five Star Prison Cell (before they started doing that Mike Patton bit), but still growly and heavy, as if a high tech robot crawled forth from the mausoleum tombs. Their 2012 EP Vessel had a more death metal production.
First Fragment’s self-released 2010 EP The Afterthought Ecstasy showcases the best possible scenario of when a band decides to release independently. The six-tracks have a very professional sound, yet without becoming sterile, and techs-out like some of the best with occasional but never overbearing guitar weedlies. The riffs and song structures are labyrnthine in complexity, but songs don’t blur by in a whirl of immemorable nonsense. This is some top-notch neo-classical technical death metal, for fans of such bands as Sophicide and early Fleshgod Apocalypse. Hopefully they release something new soon.
Unbreakable Hatred play the thick, militant tech-death that everyone enjoys. 2011’s Total Chaos, their first full-length, is the soundtrack to robotic tanks advancing to bulldoze a city. The appeal of the album is the interplay between the chunky, head-banging portions, and the contrasting tech surges with weedly guitars and bubbling bass. Imagine crossing the discordance and guitar acrobatics of later Dying Fetus, with some of the mid-paced and mid-ranged portions of militant-era Malevolent Creation.
Divinity helped to solidify the existence of “technical melodic death metal” as worthy of a separate tag in my iTunes. My favorite track by the band is “Lay in the Bed You’ve Made,” which swaggers with a melodic hook that makes me feel guilty for including it. The same song also meanders into reflective Meshuggah territory. I haven’t got much into any death metal preceded by the prefix “melodic” since I graduated from high school, but Divinity only dabbles into said metallic misstep. The Singularity (2009) has some unusual production choices, but is a great album nonetheless. I have yet to hear their 2013 EP The Immortalist Pt. 1 – Awestruck.
Another entry into the technical melodic death metal region, Quo Vadis are by no means newcomers, as they have been mixing technicality and melody since 1993. Day Into Night (2000) reminds me of Heartwork-era Carcass crossed with something more neo-classical, like later-era Death. Also check out Defiant Imagination (2004). Unfortunately, it appears the band is currently on hold.
Continuing with Canadian technical veterans is Martyr, (also, unfortunately on hold). The band has been playing philosophically-leaning death metal since 1994, and gained recognition through 1997’s Hopeless Hopes (think older Atheist) and 2000’s Warp Zone (akin to Hieronymous Bosch). I first became familiar with the band when guitarist Daniel Mongrain toured with Cryptopsy in 2004, but he has also played with Voivod, Gorguts, and Quo Vadis. Quite a resume. Man, I should really listen to these guys more.
Barra Xul play an odd combination of melodic, blackened, and technical brutal death metal which the band defines as “melodic horrorgrind.” This sounds like it would be a bit of a mess, but it really works out well. The band’s 2012 debut In Darkness We Wait has a lot surprises and a diversity packed into 35 minutes. And while it may not be the most coherent record you ever listen to, it certainly is captivating. Recommended for fans of technical grindcore, cyber grind, and the more technical side of metalcore.
The last band I wish to mention has gained a bit of recognition in the past few years, and I can’t stress enough how much they deserve it… and so much more. Any fan of technical metal that hasn’t heard Mitochondrion yet is depriving him or herself, as these guys are absolute leaders in the world of metal. Although the band is often describe as blackened death metal, I assure that there is more than enough complexity and density in Parasignosis (2011) to compete with most any technical brutal death metal release. The closest comparison I could make is the weirdness of experimental black/death in the vein of Portal, Antediluvian, Diocletian, Impetuous Ritual, Ævangelist, or even Ulcerate. This is some seriously evil and dark stuff – hence, my pick of Parasignosis as my number one technical album of 2011. I am letting myself down by not listening to their 2013 EP Antinumerology.
Thank you for reading, and thank YOU, Canada, for giving us so many awesome technical death metal bands. Keep the heaviness coming, eh?
Please feel free to post any further recommendations below, or remind me of anything I left out. If it’s from Canada and technical, I wanna hear it.