...

In this column, Invisible Oranges Copy Editor Andrew Rothmund delves into the best tech-saturated underground metal from every spectrum and persuasion. Oftentimes, blatant technicality destroys metal, overblowing it and stealing precious limelight from songwriting and composition. However, some musicians manage to wrangle their runaway mechanical skills, transforming what would otherwise be gibberish into imaginative (or just plain heavy) works of art.

...

The last two months have been kind to us metal fans, especially if you're into (or just interested in) the more technical variants and iterations of your favorite subgenres. Looking forward, too, maybe you're patiently awaiting the new Inferi, Rivers of Nihil, or Augury albums. The good news is: on all three counts, you won't be disappointed -- not even slightly. The other good news is: there's no bad news, so let's focus squarely on the present. What's out there now, maybe something a bit more under everyone's radar?

A present to you: here are three quite different, but nonetheless super-technical albums which saw semi-recent release. They all showcase something special about technicality, be it the approach's ability to manifest distinctive stylistic eccentricities, its ability to thoroughly challenge our minds, or its ability to hit us square in the face with a goddamn hammer. These bands all take their imaginative and impressive skills to heart, but don't take them for granted. Sparing use is one thing, but utilizing mechanical talents for artistic purposes is another.

...

Estuarine -- Sic Erat Scriptum
January 1st, 2018

...

It was an honor to speak with Hydrus, sole mastermind behind Florida-based project Estuarine, about his third full-length Sic Erat Scriptum. The album dazzles with an eccentric technicality, but it lacks all pretense, oozing organically with a style all its own. Hydrus doesn't rely on blatant calisthenics -- in fact, his guitar solos are strange, off-kilter, and juxtapositionally simplistic. This mix-match is evidence of his songwriting gusto, along with his oddly twangy forays into techy death-grind (which hit harder than heck, by the way). How he makes this combination work so effortlessly remains a mystery, but also stands as a testament to how embedded technicality can be in such proficient music.

Leave it to hyper-complex rhythm patterns to structure Sic Erat Scriptum's mad onslaught, though things wind down to let the guitar's eccentricity bleed through, like on the third track "Eternal Womb Terminal." There, the song's focus shifts at strategic moments to its meandering basslines; luckily, the album's production has allowed for their (relative) prominence here, as well as on other tracks. A dark, foreboding mood emerges, tying together the otherwise divergent moments of upbeat, guitar-led ascensions and bottomed-out, drum-led chugs. As a system of moving parts, Sic Erat Scriptum operates flawlessly; but stand back, and all the detail blends away to reveal cohesively wild artwork.

...

Akakor -- Akakor
December 20th, 2017

...

When your riffs are so good that vocals would just ruin them. Canada-based Akakor's self-titled debut full-length is a festival of riffage: everything from slick one-liners to off-kilter verse melodies to crunchy tech-death tangents. Technicality here reveals itself blatantly, avoids exuding showmanship; despite the absence of vocals, guitars are not the only focus. To wit, Akakor features some blistering drumming and bass -- there's a balance of instrumentation. Of course, this is still a musician's album in many ways, but not to any significant detriment to its general digestibility: there's everything from straightforward, hardcore-inspired choruses to fleeting, thundering chugs.

As much as it sounds like Akakor warrants general-audience (read: non-technical) appreciation for its technicality, there are some moments of semi-profound density. Songs like "New Song" gleefully wallow in a mire of their own discordance and obtuseness -- all precise and very prescribed, but gorgeous in its own right. This may all operate in the music's forefront, but clever songwriting and simpler riffage strongly structure the process. Unwitting listeners will find a graspable cohesiveness, perhaps giving them a leg-up on the complexity and concentration required to make sense of it. A lesson, then, for other technical bands: be as technical as you like, but don't forget about writing songs, too.

...

Blame -- Almanac
January 18th, 2018

...

Straight from the start: opening song "War" makes no qualms about hitting hard, but does so with style. Twangy bass keeps the groove moving; ever-meandering guitars nail djent-inspired noodles and deathcore slams. Blame keep each distinctive moment brief, though, limiting inspiration to only a few seconds before transitioning to the next, making Almanac feel quite alive, and maybe imparts a slightly hardcore/metalcore feel. There's a pure catchiness which pumps the band's lungs with oxygen, defending against technicality's sterilizing properties.

In the same fashion that Yugen (a band featured in the first edition of this column) imparted memorability to their music, Blame buries their technicality underneath larger, more momentous movements. Tracks, while pithy, bleed into each other, forming an ever-shifting narrative, speckled with thrashy guitar solos and the occasional shameless slam. It's not technicality which defines the music -- it oftentimes scales back for mechanically simpler expressions -- but rather the movement of your body in reaction to it. That's the human element here, despite all the programmed-feel, hyper-produced riffage (which we love anyway).

...