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One of the first posts I wrote for IO back in 2011 was a Forgotten Gems piece about Astomatous, the short-lived death metal collaboration between bassist Nick McMaster and drummer Lev Weinstein of Krallice. (A commenter on that post complains that Krallice is "ruining metal," which sounds quaint a few years later.) Their sole album, The Beauty of Reason, was a promising start. But when McMaster and Weinstein moved from Chicago to Brooklyn to pursue their work with Krallice, the project stalled out. The pair always found it difficult to find guitarists who suited their needs, and they eventually gave up.

But Weinstein and McMaster kept writing and practicing together outside of Krallice. Thus Geryon's birth in early 2012. They are one of the few bass & drum death metal duos ever to survive long enough to record a proper debut, which comes in the form of this short self-titled album (or long EP, if you prefer).

"Death metal without guitars" is not an inherently appealing concept. Fortunately, Astomatous were an unconventional death metal band in the first place. Their basic approach has remained the same: dissonant, Gorguts/Immolation-referencing riffs that sync up with or push back against Weinstein's forceful blasts. McMaster has picked up a few tricks during his time in the fertile NYC progressive metal scene, where he's also taken up with Castevet for their excellent new album. He fills up a lot of space by himself, largely avoiding palm mutes and instead stacking up piles of hand-cramping chords and slides. The bare-bones lineup leaves these songs feeling texturally sparse at times, but that's part of the point — it exposes the harmonic richness of McMaster's playing. Death metal bands disregard the bass so often that there's a Metalocalypse joke about it. It's good to hear the instrument used to its full potential.

Geryon is available digitally via the band's Bandcamp. It will see a vinyl pressing via Gilead Media in early 2014. The band plans to deviate from Krallice's sporadic performing habits and eventually tour; keep an eye out for them.

— Doug Moore

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