As the old adage goes, patience is a virtue, one too often lost on the metal community. This music offers an alternative to the more commercially-oriented hyperactivity of many other genres, but the overarching conversation of metal has still narrowed to the near past and future. Post the leaked track stream today, and the record that came out yesterday? If it’s any good we’ll write it up in five or ten years.

Lansing, Michigan’s Satyrasis offer lessons in patience on their sophomore album ...Of the Dead (streaming exclusively in full below), and in so doing upend a fair few death metal cliches—both the kind that have existed since Mantas began in Florida, and the kind that are only beginning to plaque the arteries of modern listeners.

Lesson one: for a death-thrash album, these songs are long. Opener “A Foot in Each Grave” clocks in over seven minutes while the closer, “In Ruins,” lasts past eleven.

Lesson two: the twists wait near the end--both of the songs, and the record. “A Foot in Each Grave” opens as a fairly predictable song, with drummer Dimitri Mitropoulos swift kick work paired with evocative guitar riffing reminiscent of prime-era Forbidden. Shortly, vocalist/guitarist David Peterman delivers the opening lines in a dead-ringer imitation of Deceased’s King Fowley. Some theremin accents hint at a little horror movie creepshow atmosphere, but still it’s a straightforward song up until the Flamenco-tinged acoustic guitar bridge, at which point the band is pushing past its obvious influences (and the influences are obvious--there’s even a Rush cover at the end of act two).

That bridge didn’t exist the first time that I heard “A Foot in Each Grave.” In fact, at that time I didn’t know the name of the song. I’ve had the opportunity of watching Satyrasis, a longtime veteran of Michigan’s Ogrefest, perform and rework their sound during the seven years between their first record, Creation of Failure and now. In that time they’ve evolved from a generic (if technically proficient) death-thrash band into something more progressive. As evidence, listen here for a medley of different riff takes from the writing of the album. It took from 2008 to 2015 to make this record—-again, patience.

That time was spent in detail-oriented recording and construction. Mitropoulos told us that em>...Of the Dead was recorded and re-recorded multiple times, with this release version below being the fifth draft of the record. After so many revisions and reworkings, the album was actually recorded in a single 30-hour marathon session. Each track on the final release is one of three takes or less. Most of the songs on the album feature upward of 100 recorded tracks sometimes, as on "Waltz for a Marionette," all firing at once. Satyrasis are making the complete session files for the album available on their website when the record is released—an effigy to their meticulousness.

Sifting through those details pays off, especially on closer “In Ruins,” which sounds like an entirely different band from the one that began the record. The song earns its name, devolving into a bass-and-drum-led noise freakout vaguely reminiscent of the song’s namesake group, then folding in krautrock and jazz fusion elements. Still, the song rubber bands back into the technical-melodic-thrash style that kicked off ...Of the Dead. It’s similar to the approach that worked so well for Noneuclid last year—using the classic metal elements as glue to hold the other odds and ends together.

It’s easy for listeners to take odd touches, like the 8-bit intro and full-stop finale in “Excision,” for granted because they’re fully present for us the first time we hear a piece of music. However, more often than not, it’s those little touches that turn a collection of riffs into a song, and also a collection of songs into an album. ...Of the Dead traffics heavily in such accents. They’re a rare commodity in extreme metal: surprises. I call this a pleasant one.

—Joseph Schafer



...Of the Dead drops on Tuesday, January 27 via Seventh Door Records. It will be available for free on the group's bandcamp.