Flawless Execution: Soreption True-to-Form on “Monument of the End”
What belies technical death metal is its own mechanization, resulting in a draining sterility. This has nothing to do with precision, though -- rather, it's inspiration which seems to wax and wane greatly across the tech-death bands of today. The term "machine-like" is thereby problematic: it's more often associated with precision than inspiration. All tech-death will sound computerized when merely heard; when listened to, though, elements like songwriting and experimentation matter much more. It's not easy, either, to build such immensely complex songs (and perform them within such strict tolerances) without losing touch with the music's abstract side, i.e. tech-death's potential imprint on your mood and feelings. And the emotional aspect needn't be complex (not all emotions are) -- it just has to deliver on its promise. If that promise is to be angry-as-fuck, then so be it.
Swedish shred-masters Soreption have been writing angry-as-fuck tech-death for over a decade. After two full-lengths, they've been highlighted in the scene for their ultra-aggressive take on the style. More importantly: their sound sparkles with cleanliness and fastidious order, just one step away from sounding entirely mechanical. But it's not… not by any measure. Soreption's Deterioration of Minds and Engineering the Void had indelible spirits, true groove, and even a bit of fun -- unmistakable human touches -- despite their eviscerating technicality. Soreption's new album Monument of the End, released today, takes these dynamics even further still.
Monument of the End sounds, unsurprisingly, just like Soreption (aside from the unusual inclusion of clean vocals on the final track). This means heavily syncopated guitarwork, lots of double bass, wildly meandering basslines, and punchy growls. The closest analogue is Archspire's last album, though it's arguable that Soreption relies more on traditional mechanics than embellishments while still utilizing both to some degree. The band's riffing (obviously a focus in tech-death) dominates the music, but not overbearingly so -- they rely instead on writing riffs which sound fun to play. Not all tech-death bands do this; instead, most write riffs which are simply hard to play. Think of it this way: budding guitarists will be drawn to Soreption, and this new album especially, to learn how to play without showing off… while still showing off.
This is all to say that Monument of the End is a tech-death album for tech-death people. There are tech-death "bridge" albums which cross into other styles… Monument of the End is not one of those. Some argue that Soreption's songs sound too similar to one another -- it's not an invalid point, but it's still an opinion. What's more certain is that the new album doesn't bring any huge surprises, but it does bring new levels of execution. It feels like an upgrade to a system which already worked pretty well. It all depends on the listener, then, whether that's sufficient or even allow for pleasurable listening. Soreption is not a progressive tech-death band -- if they were, they'd not be able to nail the exact sound they have nailed down right now.
"Children of the Automaton" and "Virulent Well" are Monument of the End's standout tracks -- the latter especially, whose speed and groove intertwine with visceral, hard-cut screams so fluidly that you can't help but smile. Vocals often fall to the wayside in tech-death (perhaps vocals aren't considered "technical" -- then again, see bands like Archspire), but band frontman Fredrik Söderberg pulls off a performance. Every short burst of growls and grunts is timed like clockwork along with the music's mechanical procession, increasing the sensation of urgency and anger. We chatted with Söderberg about the new album, the band's direction, and more.
You guys have had some lineup changes -- how have these changes affected the sound or direction of the band? I know you guys lost Anton [Svedin] in 2016 -- did that change up the way you guys have written the new album?
Well, I don't really think it has changed, in how we wrote it -- the biggest change is that he was part of the writing process, of course. But, we still do it the same way as we did before -- guitar, drums, and bass to build the songs, and when the songs are done, I write the lyrics and the organization of lyrics on [the album]. We've always done it the same way, the biggest difference is that there's new inspiration. Everyone plays in a unique way, of course, so that changes it a bit. But I don't think that the way we write music has changed that much.
Did you guys come across any challenges with Monument of the End? What was the hardest part about writing it, did you have to overcome any hurdles?
The first hurdle: before the member change, we actually had an album which was kind of done, and we made the decision to scrap that and start over. We felt like it would be weird to use the old album when the lineup has changed. We just started from scratch, and I think it went pretty well, our writing process. We were hungry and wanted to write new material -- for us, it went kind of fast, at least the framework of the album. Of course, when you're done with the framework, there's a lot of "fixing this and that" in each song. That takes some time of course.
I don't remember any hurdles, really. I think it went really smoothly -- I mean, usually there are hurdles. There can be all kinds of stuff; this time it went pretty smoothly.
Sounds like the new lineup has created a nice, smooth formula -- I don't know about the challenges you faced on past albums, but it sounds like this one went really well.
In past albums, a lot of the hurdles haven't been so much writing the music, it's more like producing the record. I think with Engineering the Void, the recordings were finished for over a year. There have been hurdles, but with writing music, we've always had a good plan for that. We use technology a lot: we save things on the cloud so that everyone can work with the stuff at home. So, we don't need to go into the rehearsal space and do things all the time. We structure everything out on the computer and in Guitar Pro and that kind of stuff before we actually go into the rehearsal space.
Not sure if you can speak for Tony [Westermark] too, but what's your favorite track on the record? Which one stands out for you as, maybe, personal favorite?
I think my personal favorite is "The Entity," the last track, because it's really cool with the guest vocals and everything. That's my personal favorite track -- and I really like "Children of the Automaton." I can't really answer for Tony, though, I don't think we ever really talked about it. What I know is that he's just as proud about the record as I am.
What inspired those vocals at the end of "The Entity?"
This is mostly because I really like guest vocals -- it's a fun way to do something fun with your fellow musicians. When I find out who the person is who wants to the guest vocals, I usually try to write the lyrics and do the rhythm and the tones for that person. That was the point with "The Entity" -- I wanted to utilize the uniqueness of Travis [Ryan]'s vocal style.
I think it's wicked cool he's on there. A nice, creative touch to the album.
Like all the people who have done guest vocals on our tracks -- on this [album], we've also got Matt McGachy from Cryptopsy. Usually, it's people I respect and whose vocal styles I really like, but also it's people who got to know for some reason, usually by touring. It's a fun way to make something of it and make friends and do something that will stand the test of time, or what you call it.
I find it interesting that Soreption has released three full-length albums, and they've all come in four-year intervals. It's 2010, 2014, and 2018 -- are you guys ramping up to write more, or do you like the pace you're at now?
I think we would all like a higher pace. That's for sure. I can't promise anything [laughs] -- we're aiming for an album sooner than four years apart. But, no promises. As soon as we were done with this album and had it recorded and everything, we were started thinking about the new album -- making preparations and starting to at least have an idea for it, to try to make it work. Now, with our current situation, we're making a drive for, well, to make something happen. To be frank, with the earliest album Deterioration of Minds of course, we wanted to be musicians and do everything like that. But at that point, we didn't really have the know-how or the time or anything. The difference now is that we're trying to make something more of it.
As far as inspiration goes, do you listen to tech-death in your free time? Are you checking out other genres of music, too, which might inspire you?
I think everyone is listening to some of it: one of the records from this past year, the new Archspire record. It's a really, really good record. That's kind of the thing, I have one or two death metal albums I listen to; I listen to a lot of other stuff, anything from Tom Waits to, just, weird shit. I think everyone is kind of like that. There's something about when you play this kind of music… it becomes a bit like -- and if you listen to it at home a lot -- tiresome. It gets tiresome listening to death metal all the time. I think where we get our inspiration… I don't think the music we're listening to is the direct inspiration. For me, from the beginning,
I always tried to listen to the songs we make and try to make something of it that I feel a good death metal song. The inspiration is more indirect, things you just pick up when you listen to music in general. I can't really speak for Tony in this case, but of course I listen to a lot of Cannibal Corpse and other kinds of death metal. But, I don't think we were meant to become a technical death metal band: that's just something that happened.
I guess you guys just found out that you were really, really good at your instruments?
Yeah [laughs], we just really wanted to push ourselves… see, Cannibal Corpse is really technical as well. So I think that's the case, what we were trying to be like: as cool as they were. Then, it developed into technical death metal… we just happened to be there when it was over. You push yourselves, that's kind of the point.
Any thoughts or messages to the fans as they dive into the album?
I think you should listen to it [front]-to-back -- that's the thought behind [the album]. Every song is one on its own, but I think the pacing of the album is best made to listen to track one to track eight.
Monument of the End released today via Sumerian. Order the album here.