Review Summary: Expansive, flowing, liquid anatomy.
Three years ago those who had a thing for the state of the death metal scene went crazy over a little supergroup. With members hailing from the likes of ex-Obscura, ex-Necrophagist, Spawn of Possession, Aborted, ex-God Dethroned and Noneuclid there was definitely a call to hop aboard the hype train. The ensuing debut, The Malkuth Grimoire
paved a way for a new meets old soundscape seeing critical appraisal from many major publications with their take on progressive death metal.
Three years later, it’s clear that the debut wasn’t a mere fluke. Liquid Anatomy
is a fluid response to a band backing up on their own hype, growing from it and identifying a sound unique to a supergroup actually meeting the expectations laid out before them. For Alkaloid, all the stars are lining up in their sci-fi, H.P Lovecraft world of variable time signatures and swirling progressive death. If you haven’t heard of Alkaloid (or the band’s music) before this could sound pretty damn laughable on paper. Despite this Alkaloid capitalise on the foundation of the debut and expand both musically and in theme. It’s these two (not so) simple features that allow Liquid Anatomy
to surpass The Malkuth Grimoire
in quality and accessibility.
At a somewhat hesitant level, it’s hard to fathom the quality of music Alkaloid would present on a sophomore full length. A continuing of the sound found in the debut would create an unspoken peak within the band’s music. Whilst a complete reinvention of this hybrid of death metal would only detach from the momentum of Alkaloid’s expansively progressive compositions. Thankfully, initial fears were waved as the bounding introduction of ‘Kernel Panic’ noodles through the speakers, emphasising the even cleans of Alkaloid’s often contrasting sides and finding a veritable middle ground for a band learning to hit their stride. It’s this “clean” approach that allows the prog-laced sensuality to accentuate the primal ferocity of the group’s death metal. At times the half crooned vocal cleans replicate an at peace sound, before being manipulated into the abruptly harsher tones that eventually dominate Liquid Anatomy
’s alternate personalities. Despite the band’s ability to show both faces of a coin, Alkaloid don’t fall into the trap of stereotypical progression throughout their own music. Often the band uses this multi-personality and sits the coin on its edge, playing to both contrasting sides and combining them in a way that brings light, heavy, dissonance and harmony together in spectacular fashion.
As the record moves closer to its hour plus run time, Alkaloid enjoy the signature polyrhythmic swirl of their music. With ‘As Decreed By Laws Unwritten’, ‘Chaos Theory and Practice’ and the forwardly thinking brutality found on ‘Azagthoth’, Alkaloid lift into frenetic death metal territory, leaning heavily on the technicality that engages and suffocates within the same period of music. Saying the music is diverse down to its core seems somehow under appreciative of what Alkaloid have come to offer circa 2018. Taking nuances from so many genres while also giving them a home under the now insufficient blanket term of death metal should not be understated. Even the album’s brooding, yet completely heavy title track replicated the sounds found before it, combining atmosphere with heavily progressive wall of music. The build is steady, slow yet deliberately incomplete, leaving listeners to anticipate a sound that doesn’t fall straight into awaiting ears. It’s music like this that keeps you on the edge of your seat, waiting for more.
As important as it is to summarise the very core of Alkaloid’s diverse soundscape, the translations between sections can become overwhelming, lending itself to an almost overdone change between the group’s multifaceted soundscape. The album’s greatest strength and best example of what Alkaloid are offering the world of progressive metal comes in the titanic twenty minute epic that closes Liquid Anatomy
’s musical chapter. Encapsulating everything the band is and was in a crescendo of atmosphere, light, heavy, progressive, folk-y, frenetic, aggressive, technical ability and actual songwriting ability.
Overall there’s a lot to be said about where the modern sound of death metal is going. With roots squarely held in death metal’s more prominent days there’s a limited number of bands lifting to lofty heights of profound musical growth. Admittedly we’re not at that stage yet but with more and more releases like Liquid Anatomy
turning the heads of both new and older listeners of extreme metal, the likelihood of a “new wave” of technically proficient progressive death is becoming more and more likely.