Review Summary: Dance it up, but don't expect too much from the craziness.
Hold a conversation about technical death metal and ultimately the same terms, concepts, stereotypes—the whole legion—reappear ad nauseum, the discussion more like a rehearsed dance. Of course, in this tango, critics have advocates by the throat and vice-versa, each jumping about and screaming in an attempt to squeeze the air out of the other. Call it the tech-death tango or the Necrophagist Neck Massage; the point is just that things become very linear. Embark to one side of the fence to hear elongated verbal illustrations of gorgeous, polished riffage, then step across the border to view disgruntled detractors gesticulating as if holding a Shake-Weight. ‘Wank’ is an unavoidable tag attached to any product nowadays and it’s incredibly difficult to shake off regardless of fanbase reactions. Making matters infinitely worse is a fact that has been hammered in to an equally nauseating extent: the music market is gigantic, ever-expanding, and undeniably oversaturated. To secure their end of the imaginary division, technical acts have adopted trends that can snatch up listening bases quickly, but fail to score high on memorably since Planetary Duality
has now been out for a decade and it’s time to move on. Should a collective like Equipoise enter this delightful scene, they are immediately subjected to the jolly jig aforementioned, even when loaded up with experienced personnel. The trick to rising above expectations involves a solid foundation, normally amounting to 1) a clean production, 2) every band member heard contributing, and 3) passages that display talent but do not solely rely on that. Let worries about the First Fragment Flamenco subside; Equipoise feature a slew of compelling numbers to dive into.
What cannot be disputed when speaking of the genre’s positive traits is the love it consistently showers bass players with. Modern methods have somehow managed to keep the instrument laughably absent in contemporary mixes. Technical death metal plays the role of savior by demonstrating how a fully functionable rhythm section can add heaps of depth to ordinarily shallow tracks, Equipoise being no exception. Hugo Doyon-Karout, Beyond Creation’s current fretless forayer, is loud and clear throughout debut album Demiurgus
, his prominence eclipsing performances across various peer efforts. There’s a futuristic-style tonality to the strings—a lethal, groovy Terminator capable of laying down complex measures and runaway solos, their embellishments as audible as Equipoise’s dual-guitar assault—name any song off the record presented here and Doyon-Karout is sure to be in the thick of the action in support or attack capacity. Leaving the man unchecked leads to rampage (that smooth groove brought during that breakdown in “A Suit of My Flesh”). More inimitable flair is injected into the layered tunes by including a dedicated synth supplier. Thankfully, Jimmy Pitts’ involvement is not relegated to tried-and-true-but-getting-old symphonic samples that compose archetypal releases; such orchestral outputs often trade between electronic phrases and classical keys. These entertaining sections cloak tracks in mystique to compliment sci-fi atmospheres, simultaneously providing urgency to refrains a la “Dualis Flamel” ‘s striking chorus. Rolled up into a refined production, the gentlemen behind Demiurgus
operate with machine efficiency, all chords and fills striking precisely without any element becoming jarring. Bass and key portions both amicably cooperate alongside their fellows, matching the melodic notes populating the disc’s multitude of riffs, harmonies, and highlights.
Although teamwork is evident, focus inevitably falls upon the quality exhibited by the leads, and here again the group in question covers many bases to please the crowd. Spearheaded by the rather prolific Phil Tougas—First Fragment and Zealotry adjunct as he’s known nowadays—the guitars are incredibly energetic, sporting trademark melodic overcoats per the production’s sparkling touch. Alternating solo showcases are certainly evidence of great technical skill and general control over instrumental conventions. Twin harmonies characterize the proper album introduction “Sovereign Sacrifices,” a central melodic riff acting as the guide for the song. Sweep picks galore, a range of notes marching into the sonic battlefield, technical death metal’s pension for legato tactics tacking the forefront over its parent classification’s traditionally dirtier tone. The powerful driving riff of “Alchemic Web of Deceit” indeed holds significant power despite this thanks to bass and rhythm guitar support, initiating an immersive wave of pleasing but hard-hitting sounds. A quick percussion kit operates in tandem to announce tempo alterations, charging in and out of breakdowns that place extra emphasis on virtuosic soloing, the apex of which no doubt occurs inside “Sigil Insidious”; the slowdown and subsequent reconstruction of momentum provides opportunities for engaging drum fills, subtle but impactful in their formation, while also giving ample space for the strings to roam freely. Songs found throughout Demiurgus
tend to sprint instead of run marathons; speed is the name of the game here. Even the various acoustic interludes interspersed within the album’s duration are plucked at finger-numbing paces. Rapid numbers given such musical expertise and elaborate deposits are cause enough for frantic dancing and head-numbing headbanging—more lovable riffs for the dancefloor.
Clear winners like “Dualis Flammel” are amazing culminations of Equipoise’s mission: playing at full productivity, top-notch velocities propelling guitars and basses alike around a veritable NASCAR ring of impressive, technical expositions, explosive solos reaching climactic crescendos as operatic keys color the audial décor. Yet, the exact same reason why “Dualis Flammel” succeeds is the primary inadequacy plaguing Demiurgus
: every single song spends all its time concerned with shredding away that appealing factors are sacrificed to achieve maximum speeds. Yes, tempos fluctuate and tab sheets are more like pointillism paintings than concrete figures, but the progressive department is definitely lacking in resources. Aside from previously discussed moments of change, tracks lean heavily on agility—all well and good in its own right, though at the cost of creations that really explore landscapes, adding personality to tunes and expanding upon motifs as opposed to passing them by. Promptness suffocates this kind of development, a dilemma made more problematic by the absence of riffs notable for memorability over skill. First Fragment nailed the balance between catchy melodies and swift action, each entry bound by a reoccurring guitar part, praise that cannot be said regarding Demiurgus
—double the problem considering the record is an hour long. Unfortunate as it may be, analysis circles around to accusations of ‘wank’—aimless displays that are instrumental marvels but not necessarily substantial. Despite evident shortcomings and perhaps lacking in their staying potential, the numbers lining up this debut’s length are lethal in their precise execution and devastatingly proficient. It’s not the hottest club to bust a move in, but it may bring about a nice rendition of the Cynic Cha-Cha.