Review Summary: Overtoun's back must be hurting from the weight of all the OSDM bands they are carrying to the new era of metal.
Back during November of 2018, my fellow Progressive Subway reviewer Dylan had taken up Overtoun’s debut album Centuries of Lies. He stated that the band had major songwriting potential, but a lot of their implementations of ambient instrumental tracks, and their often-amateurish delivery made the album range from “absolutely brilliant” to “utter garbage”. After giving Centuries of Lies a few thorough listens, I would not entirely disagree. But to be fair to the band, many of the songs that were included in their debut had originated from demos that they had written years before.
On that note, going from the debut of their 2021 release This Darkness Feels Alive exemplifies nothing less than an incredible transformation. Almost as though they had listened directly to Dylan’s words and worked to redeem every one of his gripes. I’d go as far as to say that this is a better product in virtually every conceivable way. When Dylan said that the band had potential, I had no idea how right he was until now.
This album essentially sounds like a modern revival of your favorite OSDM albums but on the progressive and technical side of the scene; think of post-Human Death, Pestilence, or Atheist… Hey, in fact, Atheist’s current bassist is the vocalist of this band. There is additionally a mix of melodic tech-death/tech-thrash sounds, similar to ones you might hear from Revocation. These are combined with what the band states are Latin folk and groove influences. But I generally see this as a new-wave, progressive old school death metal album.
When it comes down to the overall craftsmanship of the album, this is something that any other upcoming death metal band should aspire to be. I am always someone who absolutely loves quality album artwork, and this thing is an absolute masterpiece. This painting by Paolo Girardi is gorgeously illustrated and is about as intricate as the music itself. It is gorgeously textured, lifelike, and dripping with detail. It really paints a picture of where this album is taking us: to hell. But this is not any ordinary hell; it is the hell from within. The album’s theme is delving deep down to discover the darkest hellscape of human nature (suffering, inner torment, self-hatred, etc.)
When it comes to the mixing and mastering of this album, it is phenomenal, especially (no offense) for an OSDM album. This was mastered by Flemming Rasmussen, the legend behind Metallica’s albums: Ride the Lightning through And Justice For All… Albums that sound this good make one realize that technology advancing can really make a huge difference. The overall quality of mix and mastering that This Darkness Feels Alive has makes all of the old albums it was influenced by simply pale in comparison. It’s like when you look back on an old videogame you used to play, reminiscing about how realistic it looked, only to look at a video of it after 15 years to see that the memory you had was entirely exaggerated.
The album starts with pristine, epic guitar chords as though the album was introducing a power metal album, but in a strange twist, Underneath spirals into death metal brutality with punchy drums, angular tech-death riffs, and Obituary-esque gutturals. Much of this album follows a certain progressive/tech-death style: dynamic and aggressive drumming layered under exceptionally written, energetic riffs scattered across a relentless bass performance. The riffs are so plentiful, and for songs on the shorter side, the band manages to squeeze in so much proggy material with little time wasted. The songs transition from section to section seamlessly and continually impress me with their instrumental technicality and raw power.
This album is fairly intense for those who are not used to the aggression of death metal, but the album for sure has its mellower moments. Scattered through the album, Overtoun made sure to break up the abrasiveness with tracks like the “Araucaria” instrumental which has big medieval folk vibes with its rhythmic acoustic guitar, woodblocks, tambourine, maracas, and a very subtle symphony. The track “Alone” is somewhat of a melo-death song with the album’s only clean vocals. This track really brings out the emotion of sadness and isolation before it builds up to an orgasmic guitar solo with a reprisal of the song’s main riff. This kind of thing is utilized in much of this album, where the band introduces a main lead riff and develops its melody over time with new interpretations and reprisals. In my opinion, it is the small details like this that make a classic album.
My favorite song from this album is “Pitch-Black”, which starts with a stampede of bass and drums, which transitions into another one of their signature riffs and intense growls. The song continues with a slightly altered version of the first rhythm section until the song slowly breaks down into a beautiful violin/acoustic guitar transition. This stringed interlude just makes the Opeth fan in me want to shed a tear in awe of its fluidity and emotional power. However, the song finishes off with as much energy as it started with a wild guitar solo, double bass drums, low-tremolo picks, and the lead riff.
As long as this review turned out to be, I still want to take a moment to comment on the phenomenal guitar solos that this band produces. All of the songs, except for the instrumental, have at one or two guitar solos each, and wow: these are crazy good. This has got to be some of the better shredding I’ve heard from tech death in a good bit, and the past few months have had some real shredders. I would not be surprised if I was told that the guitarist has written over a hundred solos and curated the best ones for this album. They are all very creative and technical.
This album is really something to behold. The band members are very young and have so much passion, creativity, raw emotion, and energy. They have not been softened by the passing of time, nor have they gotten into a rut of having decades of repetitious thought patterns, putting out album-after-album of the same sound. But for being so young as they are, the band members have such a developed sense of melody, songwriting ability, and an eye (or ear?) for detail. At this point, Overtoun sounds like a band that could have been crafting prog/tech death for a lifetime. But they are just getting started. If you consider yourself a fan of Death/Atheist, or that general style that revolves around the progressive side of OSDM, I don’t know what you’re doing if you have not yet listened to this album.