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It's always a delightful challenge to describe a new Behold the Arctopus record, especially one like Hapeleptic Overtrove. For those of us that like our heavy metal experimental and technical, this group traditionally represents one of the most extreme liminal edges that can be explored, creating music that's as baffling as it is euphoric, as much of a deep cerebral brain scratch as it is jarringly avant-garde. At times they seem to lean closer to Ryoji Ikeda's particularly timbral approach to experimental rhythmic techno than to, say, Judas Priest, often only feeling metal by the choice of tones for the instruments rather than anything even close to resembling a riff. But that is, ultimately, what makes them so endlessly compelling; they represent the R&D department of heavy metal and experimental/avant-garde work, producing legitimate challenges to your palette in an era where mere extremity no longer does the trick (not even old avant-garde tricks like 80+ minute songs).

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Hapeleptic Overtrove, streaming exclusively above before its release, represents another of the split heads of lineage from their Nano Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning demo/EP. At the time, that release was the apex of their nightmarish cybernetic etudes, a mixture of re-recorded material from the first few years of the band with new compositional approaches, yielding some of the most perversely challenging music on the planet. It turns out to have been a particularly fertile short blast of ideas as we've seen before over the past 15 years from the group's methodical extraction of the ideas found there (and Colin Marston building up quite the resume for himself as a player in over avant-garde/technical/experimental bands),.

The full-lengths that follow feel often like concentrated explorations of ideas that were present on that demo in mere motes, from the abstract and cracked-brained melodicism of Skullgrid to the avant-metal riffage of Horrorscension to the alternate universe tech-death of Cognitive Emancipation. This sense of span is almost certainly due to the constantly shifting partner on the drum throne, where the differing approaches of such profoundly gifted drummers and drum arrangers as Charlie Zeleny, Weasel Walter, and current drummer Jason Bauers offer radically different framing and thus radically different directions for an already arguably over-talented group.

Hapeleptic Overtrove once more returns to the original template of the group, famously rumored to have been scored in its entirety such that even the bum-note post-Captain Beefheart squalor was always technically part of the plan, this time pulling out a surprising affinity for avant-garde chamber music especially as it arises in the prog-rock tradition.

At times, the group almost feels like a metallic answer to a group like Univers Zero or Dün, carrying that same intense European darkness that arose from the RIO (Rock in Opposition) chamber music world. The shift with Bauers from a standard drum kit to a great deal more orchestral percussion lifts out the chamber music elements of the group, with Marston and guitarist Mike Lerner taking substantially more measured and precise approaches to their string instruments this time around.

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Before, there was almost always a level of punkish sloppiness at key moments, just enough to remind you this was three human beings playing the music and not a programmed machine; here, they lean in to the precision and control orchestral and chamber music call for, replacing their hybrid disciplined-indiscipline for something almost more traditional. The compositions are still Behold the Arctopus all the way through, however, and will likely require three, four or more listens before they really start to crack open for you.

But ultimately that kind of challenge is precisely what makes this band so thrilling. The players here have other outlets for more accessible work, even if that work is still relatively demanding. Behold the Arctopus is about the challenge, about extremity in heavy metal expressed through cognitive difficulty and the enthralling challenge of trying to master the twists and turns of these compositions, slippery as an eel fresh from the water. Hapeleptic Overtrove doesn't let us down on this mark; hell, its chamber music inclinations may even push it the closest to what a normal listener might view as traditional songs, albeit still of a rather broken and demanding type.

But in a world where blast beats, Luciferic theology, and atonal tone-row-dissonant squalls have become relatively approachable for the extreme metal underground, it is worth celebrating that a group can present a real and honest challenge.

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Hapeleptic Overtrove releases June 12th via Willowtip Records and P2. Preorders available via Bandcamp.

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