Review Summary: Theatrical fun.
It never once passed my mind that the same man who pushed "djent" to the forefront of current-day metal would form an orchestral, black metal-inspired duo. While the progressive elements of Misha Mansoor's previous works still stand a head above the new attributes of 'Viscera', there is no doubting that this EP showcases some of the most original and enjoyable music that Mansoor and Mark Holcomb have ever written. A hard-hitting flurry of blastbeats and rapid riffs, 'Viscera' is a fantastic EP that shows serious promise for future releases.
The title track and opener came as a surprise. A massive, yet brief orchestral opening does an excellent job of setting a colossal tone for the EP. It is incredibly cinematic and manages to capture the intensity of the EP within a short minute and 15 seconds. Followed up by one of the most violent tracks ever to be recorded by Misha and Co., 'The Spire' pulls just as much inspiration from black metal and death metal as it does from the band's progressive roots. 2 minutes of blastbeats and ridiculously fast riffs. Followed up by the theatrical epic, 'Norway Jose', the band continue the blackened trend set by 'The Spire', while including higher-register riffing that Holcomb has become known for. 'Harrison Fjord' holds back on the black, and leans more on Holcomb's progressive metal riffing. That is, right until the end of the track where an impulse to be kvlt must have struck Holcomb and Mansoor in the studio. It is an odd change; rapidly switching from uplifting to bleak and violent, but it is a fun ending nonetheless.
The next two tracks are quite similar to the work Mansoor and Holcomb put out with 'Periphery', and while great tracks, are a little too predictable. However, EP closer, 'Blast Inc.' is for lack of a better word, a blast. Featuring a wonderful use of layering sounds, and some fun saxophone work (yes, a saxophone), it is one of the better tracks on the EP. And while the saxophone outstays it's welcome at the end of the track (unless of course saxophone humour is something you enjoy), the song on the whole is rampant, visceral, theatrical fun.
Production is as expected from Mansoor. Loud, and punchy as all hell. This EP packs a solid, progressive punch, which in itself suits the blackened aspects of the EP surprisingly well. While the kit may be a little loud (I am looking at you, snare), it is mixed remarkably well; regardless of samples. Drum playing sounds authentic and is a step-up from anything Misha has produced prior in regards to virtual instrumentation. The guitar work is as expected; technical, off-beat, and chunky. The famous (or infamous depending on how elitist you find yourself to be) guitar tone that 'Periphery' perfected does not shy away from this EP, and adds an interesting dynamic when paired with the different styles of music on the EP. While sporadic at times, each song is unique and easily identifiable due to a more concise approach to song structure that was never utilised in the duo's previous works.
'Viscera' is a strong release. It is enjoyable all throughout, and absolutely punches. The instrumentation is solid, the production is tight, and the EP length is great. The blending of genres works very well, and while the EP's sound is extremely polished, it does show that high-fi production and black metal riffing can work well together in the right context. And while there aren't any tracks that are masterful in execution, 'Viscera' is, on the whole, a step ahead of anything the duo have released previously. Blackened-death-inspired, orchestral progressive metal? Why not.