Review Summary: Joe Haley and the Psycroptics
Last decade was the most prolific period for technical death metal, bands such as Decapitated, Gorod, Necrophagist, Obscura, among many others, took over record stores and stages all over the world. This fully armed force intended to take what Death or Atheist started to another new technical level. One of the bands that stood out the most from the tech pack were the Tasmanians Psycroptic. Their sound was mainly characterized by Joe Haley's complex riffs and Chalky's quite distinctive cookie monster vocals. Their first albums are seen as references to the genre, especially The Scepter of the Ancients
, which is considered by many to be one of the best technical death metal albums of the past decade.
Their more core-ish approach on latest releases, namely on vocals, hasn't been well accepted by many older fans, who see this metamorphosis as a betrayal of the band's early style. Not surprisingly, their latest albums The Inherited Repression
, which I particularly like, and self-titled release, had a mixed reception from the fan base.
For my part, I waited for As The Kingdom Drowns
with an open mind, hoping it would bring good riffs and some high quality tech. I didn't expect The Scepter of the Ancients Part II
or The Inherited Repression 2.0
, just a good slab of Aussie tech, nothing more.
It didn't take long to realize Joe Haley would be the center of gravity. "We Were the Keepers" starts at warp speed, with an absolutely killer riff, destroying everything in its path. The album couldn't get off to a better start. In addition to the inspired rhythm guitar, the opener has a super catchy chorus, with female backing vocals, that adds a nice aura to the song. "Frozen Gaze" doesn't slow down, keeping the same rhythmic quality, in which I would highlight the cohesion between the Haley brothers, that seems stronger than ever. The next song, "Directive" calms things down a bit, allowing us to get some air, but once again, Joe's rhythmic work is admirable, namely the mid-paced dynamics, which are far above average. But Joe's talent transcends rhythm, as is proven in "Deadlands", which features a pleasant Alex Skolnick-esque (The Ritual period) solo. Title track and "Beyond the Black" build a bridge with "We Were the Keepers", again using Amy Wiles' backing vocals, which suggests the three songs may have been composed at the same time, thus forming the structural axis of As the Kingdom Drowns
. "Beyond the Black", with its engaging chorus, is one of the album's highlights.
It doesn't seem fair to focus only on Joe's performance, when his brother David has an equally important role, as we can hear in "Upon These Stones", where he has room to shine, in absolute symbiosis with his brother. This symbiotic relationship is manifested, in all its strength, in "Momentum of the Void", through its infectious groove that swings in perfect synchronism. The album ends with "You Belong Here, Below" which, although not a bad song by any means, doesn't seem to me the best choice to close As the Kingdom Drowns
. I would have preferred quality over quantity, ending with "Momentum of the Void". I feel the album would benefit from this cutback.
In conclusion, As the Kingdom Drowns
is a product of artistic maturity, meticulously shaped by synergy and skill. The end result of a cohesive effort, orbiting around the talent of one of the best rhythm guitarists of his generation. This is Joe Haley's album, and yes, my tech friends, Joe Haley and the Psycroptics have released their best album of the decade.