Friday, July 25, 2014

Allegaeon - Elements of the Infinite

Last month, American technical melodeath outfit Allegaeon released their third full-length album, Elements of the Infinite. It was my first exposure to the band.

As some of you may already know, technical death metal is typically not one of my favorite styles. I don't hate it, but I tend only to take it in small doses. Melodic death metal, on the other hand, is an old favorite but it's been going through something of a quality drought in recent years. With those statements in mind, I have to say that the "meh" cover art, bland album name, and even blander band name all had me feeling pretty skeptical about this record. Despite hearing some positive buzz, I came very close to just ignoring it.

That's why we should not judge a book by its cover.

It turns out, this is probably my favorite tech death album since Beyond Creation blew me away with 2011's The Aura. The key, which so many bands seem to miss, is to use all that technical wizardry as the means rather than the end. Songs progress, the album has a natural flow to it, the hyper-proficient drumming drives the music's forward momentum, the plentiful solos are well-constructed and interesting, and the guitar riffs are distinct and engaging. Even the bass comes out to play, prominently rounding out the sound and providing some entertaining flourishes of its own. Probably the least impressive part of the whole record is the vocal work, which is very good in its own right but doesn't really stand out the way the instrumentation all does. I would also be remiss if I didn't point out the tasteful sprinkling of choir singing and orchestral instrumentation that kick things up a notch in the sweeping drama department.

The cool thing about this record, in my opinion, is that this is a somewhat underutilized combination of sub-genres. Basically, technical death metal bands trace their lineage back to Suffocation, where they turned left while the slam bands went right and the brutal death metal bands charged straight forward. The trouble is, most bands never branch out from there, so they end up sounding like wanking, watered-down Suffocation wannabees with about 1/3 the direction and 1/3000 the testicular fortitude. Allegaeon, though, sound more like an amped-up version of Septicflesh cross-bred with early Soilwork. There's really no reason a heavy, technical take on melodeath can't work (in fact I'd say it's a perfect fit) but for some reason I don't seem to see it done very often. Here, it's executed wonderfully. The result is a best-of-both-worlds situation where melody engages the listener but doesn't water down the heaviness, and technicality fuels the material without driving it into a huge pile of spaghetti.

That was a pun about noodling.


My point is, this is a very good record, and that's coming from somebody who is presently a bit disillusioned with melodeath and who rarely gives tech death albums high marks.

Grade: A

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