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During the '80s, thrash was heavy metal's laboratory. It pushed metal's speed and intensity to new levels; it led to death and black metal; it spawned freakish luminaries like Voivod, Coroner, and even Meshuggah. Its children did well commercially, too.

But now, thrash is stuck more firmly in the past than virtually any other metal subgenre. (Power metal may be even more static, but I don't know enough about it to say for sure.) When I think of modern thrash, I think mostly of bands that are openly imitating one piece of history or another. Some of those imitations are great; I wouldn't want Nekromantheon, for instance, to do anything but worship reverb plug-ins and Slayer. But I'm also not even sure what the last noticeably inventive thrash album I heard was. Vektor, maybe? Do they count?

Or maybe it was Noneuclid's last album, 2008's The Crawling Chaos. I'm not totally sure why it's taken this band six years to follow up on their debut album, but I can guess: the members are very busy. Bassist Linus Klausenitzer plays in the tech death band Obscura, while everyone else in the band also collaborates in the Century Media black metal act Dark Fortress. Guitarist V. Santura also plays in Triptykon. Whatever the reason, Noneuclid fell silent for long enough that I assumed they'd broken up.

It's good that they didn't. Thrash needs bands like them. They're an oddity among their peers in that they sound totally contemporary, partially because they aren't a pureblooded thrash band — there's a lot of death metal and prog in their sound too. (The band self-identify as "space death metal" and I included them in a death metal-themed mixtape a few years ago, but there's more thrash than anything else going on here.) Hybridism is one of the basic hallmarks of modern metal; unlike many current thrash acts, Noneuclid sound like they're aware of metal's past 20-odd years of stylistic innovation.

Despite the long delay, Noneuclid pick up on Metatheosis almost exactly where they left off on The Crawling Chaos. I'm happy to resume the tale in media res. "Noneuclid" is an oddball Lovecraft reference; while the author's name is currently most closely associated with gibberishy death metal, this band clearly remembers that his ideas first appeared in metal by way of a certain progressive thrash band. Noneuclid lives up to their moniker's bewildering spatial implications — double-jointed riffs jut out at uncomfortable rhythmic angles; hummable melodies appear and vanish without warning; song lengths slither past the six-minute mark on the reg.

Metatheosis is an ambitious album that throws a lot of different looks at the listener — "Across the Mist of Broken Glass" is a near-ballad that allows guitarist/vocalist Morean to strip the grit from his singing voice (yes, he actually sings), and it's followed by the three-part "Into the Light." These extravagances play an important role on Metatheosis, but its most satisfying moments come when the widescreen prog-isms run headlong into vicious death/thrash. Listen to how opener "Paranoid Alkaloid" (streaming above) wrenches itself away from maniacal speedpicking calisthenics for a melodic instrumental refrain before diving into Morbid Angel ooze. Theirs is a violently variegated vision — exactly the kind of future I'd like to believe in.

Metatheosis comes out on May 4 via Blood Music.

— Doug Moore

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