Side Effects Expected



by artiswar USER (16 Reviews)
January 7th, 2018 | 7 replies

Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The best tech-death record you've never heard.

Trent Reznor once said that he hated guitar solos. His reasoning was that they were merely technical exercises and expressed no emotion. And that is a dilemma with a lot of prog music in general; it’s hard to fault the impeccable musicianship on display but it’s also often difficult to convey feeling through that technical skill alone, it's almost like trying to squeeze blood from a beautiful stone.

Centaurus-A was a german tech-death band that got virtually no attention whatsoever despite somehow tapping into the golden ratio of all prog music, that perfect balance between sheer technical wankery and moments of genuine emotional beauty. Unfortunately they went mostly unobserved and dissolved after only one album. With merely 10 tracks under their belt, Centaurus-A waste no time putting on a clinic of convoluted technical virtuosity coupled with a refined sense of melodics that is used sparingly to balance out the death metal frenzy.

When it comes to death metal riffs, they mainly come in two forms; heavy riffs that bludgeon you, and technical riffs that slice and dice, and Centaurus-A makes liberal use of both, usually alternating between them for a complex aural assault that is deeply engaging and dynamic if you manage to not get lost in its swirling madness.

Tracks like Narcotic, Drop Off, Morning Tremble, and Incident/Accident throw you into a tide of jumbled, schizophrenic riffs before locking into more familiar rhythmic patterns that anchor everything and create a sense of contrast; the mind-boggling riff-salads inform the more conventionally structured passages and vice versa.

The absolute shining star of the album however is lead single A Praying Mantis, sporting an infectious main-riff that is designed to send the pit into a frenzy, but it’s the solo section that gets the limelight here; what makes it remarkable is the sheer restraint, as Hernan Riveros takes his time building up the atmosphere before spiralling into a complex flurry of face-melting notes. It’s striking because he’s clearly an unbelievable shredder yet he never neglects the emotional side of soloing in favour of technicality. He rides that fine line, using both skill-sets when they are called for and thus creates exhilarating peaks and valleys in his solos, and that is a high-level skill that many lead-guitarists these days could take note of; Ridiculous sweep-tapping licks that were meticulously practiced for years are meaningless without an essential emotional truth conveyed to provide them with context.

The other standout is Dripping Red Canvas which is a convoluted storm of restless riffs that refuses to give you a chance to breathe or find a comfort zone before the song finally settles into a traditional head-banging riff that builds and builds until it explodes into the most epic solo I’ve ever heard in my life. The lead guitar is so wild, emotional and all over-the-place, the swirling melodies so on-point that they just slice right though you. The track even has the audacity to end with a fade-out during a particularly outrageous sweep section as if to say ‘big deal, this is nothing’. It’s as amazing as it is flabbergasting, and a perfect example of what makes Side Effects Expected so vital to the genre.

Other notable tracks include Self-Made Cage which mostly sets aside their signature brand of technical death metal in favour of a more rhythmic djent sound. In fact, this whole song is one big love letter to Meshuggah whose influence is weaved subtly into parts of this album, while Resistance Ain't Futile is a head-turning closer with its eerie melodic harmonies and melo-death influenced riffs that build to one final massive breakdown to close the album, really hitting home what a chameleon of influences this band is. I'd also be remiss in not mentioning Arson, which stands out as stripped down groove-metal track where the band foregoes their inherent technicality in favour of just sending audiences into a moshing, head banging tizzy.

I confess that this is probably my favourite tech-death album of all time. What kills me about it is just the utter lack of sentimentality on the band’s part; They will burst into some jaw-dropping harmonized sequence at the drop of a hat, and then promptly throw it away and move on, only rarely repeating themselves. Beautiful shards of melodies captured immaculately like exotic insects in drops of amber, frozen for mere heart-beats before being destroyed in a hellfire of riffs. There is such a staggering confidence/arrogance to that style of writing that is terribly captivating, and Centaurus-A somehow pull it off on their debut like they’ve been doing this routinely all their lives. This album is larger than life and should not have been swept under the rug. Let’s rectify that Sputnik.

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user ratings (29)

Comments:Add a Comment 
January 7th 2018


Album Rating: 5.0

Wanted to do something special for my 10th review. This album has never ever left my rotation since 2009. Please nerd out with me guys.

Dripping Red Canvas


The Praying Mantis (official video)


Drop Off (official video)


January 7th 2018


every time i go to listen to this album i end up pausing it midway through to jam sophicide or soreption

January 7th 2018


Album Rating: 5.0

I haven't checked out Sophicide, should do that. I listen to Soreption and they're great but they have nothing on this tbh.

January 9th 2018


haha i used to jam this shit all the time

January 9th 2018


Album Rating: 5.0

why'd you stop? this album is straight bonkers.

January 14th 2018


I couldn't ignore the highly praiseful score and review of this album, so I gave some of its tracks a spin. After hearing them, I am convinced that this is yet another case of a very highly technically competent assemble of musicians, who unfortunately don't have the compositional skill to produce something actually listenable.

There were exceptions, though: Whenever a solo section came up, it was like the nectar of the gods. Dudes can shred and solo for days! All the solos were very melodic and well thought out, while the other instruments' accompaniement was very tasteful also. I really enjoyed this specific part of their music.

January 15th 2018


Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks for reading! I'm glad you loved parts of the album, but it seems like you've only listened to it a few times. You should really give the songs more time to sink in, I know some of them feel random compositionally but I swear there's real songs on here. It's not a super easy album to digest immediately. I've jammed this an absurd number of times and it just gets better.

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