A first for Progressivelyso that we delve in to the world of Progressive Death Metal with Denominate from Oulu, Finland. At the kind request of Inverse Records we bring you this progressive technical death metal band that continues to push the envelope and expand the ever powerful world of metal and its bone crushing genre. Not all that familiar with Progressive Death Metal I had to jump back in time to my late teens/early twenties and relive my days when metal was big on my list of things to listen to. Sure I still listened to all my other favourite Prog champions but metal had always been a main staple in my dealings with exploring life musically. My one older sister introduced me to bands like Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Judas Priest when I was 5/6 and what did I know about music then besides what you saw on Sesame Street right? So here I was being exposed to songs like “War Pigs”, “Freewheel Burning” and “Highway to Hell” and thus began my ministry in the world of hard rock and metal. It wasn’t till I was in my teens finishing up high school that I was introduced to heavier forms of metal and thrash with the likes of; Slayer, Forced Entry, Death, Bolt Thrower and Napalm Death et al that really opened up my eyes to a much larger world of brutal bone crushing sounds that would have just obliterated your elderly neighbour’s hearing aid next door in to the next millennium. Death Metal albums covers have always fascinated me, much darker and more sinister looking than Iron Maiden album art because they were always intriguing but I always found them to be very Heavy Metal comic book looking whereas Death Metal album art was something different, a true reflection of what you could expect to hear inside the jacket or jewel case. This artwork defines the genre and the style expected musically, albeit it does remind me a bit of the ending in the Lord of the Rings inside Mount Doom but that’s where this kind of music lives and thrives. Sure that sounds cliché and stereotyping but it’s absolutely true, one does not think about puppies and butterflies when writing songs with titles like; Torments of Silence, The Demented Scholar of Abatos or Terrestrial Funeral right?! Those we find in this album and we’ll get to them shortly. With bands of this genre there is no room for sloppiness or a slip of a note that ended up being on the album and becomming the iconic flubbed note that has to be played from there on in, NO, Progressive Death Metal requires; skill, precision, intense rehearsals and a true dedication to the music that you are playing. Love it or hate it, this genre has a lot to offer in the ways of being strict technically constructed pieces of music that leave no room for error.
“Those Who Beheld The End” which hits stores August 5th this year will be the band’s second album after their premiere release in 2014 “Realms of Confusion“. 7 tracks that will decimate your neighbourhood block to rubble but also brings a more polished and refined sound of technicality and tight instrumentation that will wake the critics and fans up alike. “In a Chasm of Stone” commiserates the album with four tight snare drum snaps before the guitars snarl their way in and then the band all falls in to place and begins their tenure. The massive intensity of the drumming pulverizes the kit as the double kick bass has to be some of the fastest and most precise I have ever heard. The guitars are in a strict formation of note for note no mistakes here as they rip through the song like claws through tissue paper. Vocally the song has the tension of fear and determination as they grind through with a fierce tenacity holding nothing back. The guitar solo was a surprise as I had expected something blistering but instead it was controlled and well crafted. The song goes through a number of tempo/timbre changes and the drums are the watchman for the changes as they are the engine to the cogs and wheels that are the guitars and bass spinning wildly but controlled throughout. The engineer, the vocalist, has the throttle pushed to full and spares nothing in this juggernaut of a song’s wake. “Degradation” follows up and continues the over the top brilliant mastery of the instrumentation as the song is slightly slower than the previous track but again as I have mentioned before a few times, no room for errors. The drums roll in like a blitzkrieg swarm of Panzer tanks pouncing on an unsuspecting enemy followed by the fierce guitar tones that are tight and fluid striking without warnings as they carry the song in to full swing. As the title suggests this song does the exact opposite musically and commands power through raw and determined energy from the band as the execute this track to perfection. Reminiscent of the Florida band, Death this track definitely pays homage to one of the forerunners to the Progressive Death Metal genre that helped pave the way for bands like Denominate to come forth with their own style and branding. Arguments can be made that this music all sounds the same but it doesn’t. Listening to it one can hear the intricacies of the notes being played, it’s not all barking machine gun guitars, screeching vocals and barrel rolling drums. This is intense construction of very heavy music! Full of tempo/timbre changes the song well defines the Progressive elements here through their dark tones and guttural vocals that fit perfectly within the confines of their unique sound.
“Penumbra” begins with a good dark groove that snaps in to a frenzy of calculated and meticulousness complete with start/stops that are so tight you couldn’t get in there with a shoe horn and a mack truck pushing they are that tightly rehearsed. The start/stops give the song a unsettling feeling as you hope that it will stop but the band sees none of that and pushes forward through their massive wall of sound. The musicianship here is again so detailed throughout the song that it’s so hard to hear it all the first time properly and the guitar solo gleans through ice with heated notes that slice through it like a hot knife to butter. The work that goes in to this format of music is staggering considering the complexity of the song structure, the constant energy that every member gives to every song without any signs of slowing down. To be that young again and able to play that fast again right?! Even in my best shape I couldn’t hold a match to the caliber of playing this band puts in to their music. It’s angry, brutal, intense, full of complicated riffs that are compounded by the fierce talents of every band member making them a giant force to be reckoned with in their facet of the Progressive genre. “The Demented Scholar of Abatos” keeps the hellfire club this band has created going strong and has no qualms about shifting the rusted ancient gears of tyranny in to full throttle again with more painstaking accuracy as they spearhead this one with no remorse leaving dust in its wake. The tempo/timbre changes allow the band to present and show off their gargantuan might as a band and their ability to be so complicated musically its mind boggling how they manage to piece these songs together. The Progressive technicalities in this song as with the others again is intricate and well crafted as it displays a multi-faceted track full of changes and the speed in which this song sways is brilliant and rises from the depths of the earth to take over the ears that it reaches out to. Hans Keller once said that people who have an audience ought to heard and this band clearly will have an audience and be heard. There is a growing sense of emergence again for this type of music and that although it has never gone away it shunned itself for a brief period of time when other bands began creating crimes that caused the world to review this music as bad and unwelcome but the fans knew otherwise and it has returned to the forefront and this band has thus far demonstrated that they can hold their own and not back down from critics who deem it unwelcome because there is an audience for this ginormous sound of music. “Torments of Silence” begins with an acoustic side of the band that completely shows that they are not without diversity either. The song was a complete shock to hear as it carries forth the musicianship of the other side of the band’s creativity which was absolutely fabulous to hear. They acoustically played out the song’s inception and progressed in to a power metal refrain as the song built up in to their previous forms and they segue back in to their speed and forcefulness. But this song sees the band pull back a bit to a slower pace and demonstrate that they do have a calmer artistic side and yet still maintain their image well throughout the track. The song draws upon the artful speed metal of the 80’s with a very Iron Maiden feel to it and a Chuck Schulinder style vocal that fills in the song with the raw power that has been given to every other song on the album. The guitar work is clear and radiant as the drumming is filled out and no part of the kit is wasted. The bass as always here brings the bottom end up form the bowels of the earth and retains its might throughout. Death metal bands have always been able to create some of the most surrealistic acoustic pieces in the beginning or ending of their songs that has always been a very overlooked aspect of their music and it clearly shows their talents undistorted as well as prove that they are more than the stereotypes have labelled them as.
“Apeirophobia” follows up next and the title refers to the fear of eternity which is another facet of this genre that I have always found remarkable, they write about things that you don’t even think about on a regular basis. This track sees the band again display their might through a slower paced track but not holding back on the strength it gives off. Another well crafted guitar solo that isn’t all shredding which makes this band even more of an interest to listen to because they add in many different aspects of their music to create a fluid piece of music and often the solos are very toned back but well designed to fit the song perfectly. They display their talents through their musicianship as opposed to just shredding and sweeping through the song with no real direction. This is well calculated and designed music here like architectural plans laid out and pieced together as so no mistakes are present, ever. The drumming is some of the most intense and fastest I have ever heard and the drummer has full disciplined control in every track. Guitar work that doubles up in the solos and they compliment each other all through the bombardment that the song brings to the table along with a thunderous bass line that never leaves the pocket with the drummer to create the ultimate bottom end to their sound. “Terrestrial Funeral” the last track on the album has the band in tight formation as they sync up the guitars and begin their auditory assault as the song gives your speakers a full on beating as they close off the album with this song. With tempo/timbre changes in place it marks its progressive facets well and with the bass taking a small but eventful lead in the background the song opens up in to a clash of sound that takes it straight to the end. The middle section pulls back a bit to allow you to gather what’s left of your hearing before the band takes control again and finishes off with a massive tour de force onslaught of musical power. The guitar solo has all the elements of summoning up notes that aren’t even there as it rips and destroys the speakers in your system. In a very straight forward Forced Entry band feel to it the guitars take us to the finale of the song as the double kick marches on and continues to crack the earth with every hit. The vocals here as they are throughout the album are raw, intense, and not modulated as they can be heard in some of the band’s live performances found on YouTube. They are not without compassion and deliverance as the singer truly believes in what he is saying and never strays away from his style and is true to the genre and himself throughout the album.
Denominate has given the Progressive Death Metal genre something new to realize and listen to as they have blended melodies along with bone crushing riffs that can not be denied that they are some of THE heaviest I have ever heard. They hopefully will continue to remain this polished and experimental as they continue to develop their sound and style more within the genre and what they can do with it because they have distinguished themselves exactly as they have been described to me, Progressive Technical Death Metal. Many thanks to Inverse records for this opportunity to review the album and to the fans who keep this facet of the Progressive genre alive and always heavy. Enjoy