Being, uh, a little mad at the world right now is understandable, and what better way to express that than withering, excruciating technical death metal? After finally stepping out with international tour dates in 2019, Australia's Hadal Maw have bottled up their frustrations throughout the pandemic and associated lockdowns, finally putting them onto tape with the Oblique Order EP, set to release on the final day of the year. Perhaps better times will follow, but Hadal Maw is unconcerned with optimism: Oblique Order is a blighted mass of cynicism, almost entirely sharp-edged and boiling to the touch. Their brand of technical death metal is less focused on delivering dazzling flurries of notes versus wringing the utmost bitter desolation possible from mortal instruments, but there's points within where the two approaches overlap, overwhelmingly so. In bite-sized EP packaging, this hits incredibly hard, so stream the whole thing now:

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Oblique Order alternates between pondering the wreckage of civilization through complex landscapes of jarring chords and blasting headfirst into the fray themselves with pitched assaults of whirling fretwork and bursts of double-bass. Sometimes, like on the title track, the music itself is hard to parse in how fast it twists between these modes, but it's held together through unusually complex vocal interplay: on "Oblique Order," no less than three guest vocalists lend a sort of call-and-response structure to the verses to keep the song on track.

Though much of the EP seems to be a condemnation of the world, even just going by the sneering vocal delivery and disaffected tonalities without considering what the band says about it, there's a few moments that break the mold and cast a wistful light on things. Delicate guitar work on the second half of "Vile Veneration" almost seems to hope for better days—until the full weight of the band comes in behind it and erases that futile optimism.

The band comments:

The Oblique Order is a military tactic whereby an attacking army focuses its forces on a single enemy flank. This allows a commander with weaker or equal forces to achieve a local superiority in numbers. A similar tactic could be said of the horde of “worms” engulfing whoever is perceived as a threat online, in person, in the media and devouring them.

We fear the status quo, we name our demons, we eagerly await the next inquisition in the pursuit of truth, the spectacle of shame and see the true face of human nature. We create each link in our chains, bound together in our own hypocrisies and we have the choice to face our own truths or become slaves to the lies we uphold.

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Oblique Order releases December 31st via Blighttown Records.

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