Review Summary: One of the ultimate albums in prog/tech/death, let alone death metal in general.
It's very confusing to see how bands like Cannibal Corpse were influenced by this band at all. The seminal death metal project, founded by the legendary Chuck Schuldiner, may have pioneered the genre and pushed it to the limits of exploration, but what is truly worth mention here is the fact that they're just so different from their contemporaries. In fact, one of the songs on this album, Secret Face, describes this album perfectly. It looks like an ordinary death metal album, skulls, skeletons, and all. However, it is insanely technical, progressive, and rewarding; it just takes time to unravel completely.
What's also surprising is the fact that while this album is aggressive, it slows down for softer, milder sections, such as the beginning of Lack of Comprehension and the majority of the great instrumental Cosmic Sea. The former begins with a nice acoustic section, but starts having the heavy edge that is normal to Death. The latter is interesting, though; it is extremely atmospheric, yet so powerful. It has an opening solo by Schuldiner and Paul Masvidal, but the truly eyebrow-raising moment is when Steve DiGiorgio(the band's bassist) solos after a synth-heavy section.
The band doesn't abandon their heavy side, though; they actually create a great balance here, basically having the characteristics of Leprosy and/or Spiritual Healing but with more maturity and better songwriting. More aggression is brought out with Together as One, See Through Dreams, and Vacant Planets. Together as One opens extremely strong, with a powerful riff, but the technicality never lets up, instead opting for a more balanced approach. Vacant Planets, meanwhile, is amazing, beginning with a 3/4 verse, and maintaining a progressive level while having a cooled down one as well. See Through Dreams takes the word "technical" to a new level, though. The chorus is pretty intense, but just as melodic.
What will be mentioned, though, are some issues. The first one is the brevity. This album clocks in at only 34+ minutes, with little slowdown in the music. The speed and length can remind one of Reign in Blood by Slayer, but some might not be very happy about the length overall. The other problem is that this album, as was already told, is a bit too much for casual listening, but you might not really care if you are at least a moderate death metal fan.
Who cares about those little gripes, though, when the music is this good? This album definitely stands toe-to-toe with Atheist's "Unquestionable Presence" and Cynic's "Focus", if not even further. It's an extremely progressive release that challenges the listener with unusual rhythms and technical riffs. This is an extremely rewarding release.