Sunday, June 18, 2017

Droid – Terrestrial Mutations

It should be no surprise that in the years following Vektor’s enormous popularity, there has been a major resurgence of technical thrash metal. In particular, worshipping at the altar of Voivod, Obliveon, and other sci-fi tech-thrash bands seems to be the new trend. This is admittedly a very difficult sound to pull off successfully, so there aren’t a ton of great bands, but one group that needs more notoriety immediately is Canada’s Droid. Despite a few earlier releases (including some demos and an EP), the band was tough to get into due to extremely weak vocals, but with that problem rectified, “Terrestrial Mutations” stands out as a top-tier technical thrash metal release for 2017.

It’s easiest to start with the riffs, because at nearly 62 minutes, there are a lot of them on this release. Despite Vektor clearly being a major influence on Droid, this album doesn’t sound anything like a bunch of second-rate Vektor riffs. Many of these riffs are incredibly original sounding. There is a lot of dissonance, but Droid’s unique elements is the way they use staccato palm-muted sections in a lot of their riffs. This results in tighter, much more precise sounding music. Again, relative to Vektor, Droid doesn’t fly off the handle with speed, instead opting for an upbeat tempo that is considerably more calculated. While the opening track features some of the stronger examples of this type of exactness, the main riff of “Suspended Animation” is truly the most devastating. If this song doesn’t make Voivod alarm bells start going off in your head, nothing will.

As the album rolls on, the band experiments with clean guitar sections to create a space-themed atmosphere. Combined with their dissonant riffing, the end result is effective. These sections occasionally get off track and contribute to the overlong feeling the album has. Put simply, if this record were 8-10 songs of short ragers like “Suspended Animation”, it would be perfect. The title track, for example, opens with some seriously potent riffing, but has trouble sustaining its nearly 10-minute runtime. Nonetheless, the originality keeps “Terrestrial Mutations” (the album) worth hearing throughout. The band is occasionally able to inject bluesier solos into the music, and even songs that are much more punk oriented than thrash ("Pain of Reincarnation"), so there is always a surprise waiting around each corner.

One of the only ways in which this record doesn’t try to redefine thrash is with its vocals. If you’ve heard Droid prior to this album, you’d probably avoid it if the vocals were even in the same realm as on their previous release. Fortunately, the band has cleaned this up significantly. They now opt for a straight forward yelling style that is extremely common to thrash. As someone growing increasingly disillusioned with the fact that every single thrash band is moving towards more extreme vocals, this old-school throwback is extremely appreciated. This is exactly the style of singing that thrash needs more of these days, and in a subgenre where bands are constantly trying to outdo one another with weirdness (tech-thrash), having one familiar element makes this release much more palatable. There is the occasional section with cleaner singing, but these are few and far between. They tend to be more atmospheric, and fit the strange nature of the music. 

As noted earlier, “Terrestrial Mutations” is not a speedfest. This record utilizes tempos and even grooves in a very deliberate way. The drumming tends to be rather open, with plenty of space for offbeat bass drum work between snare hits. If you subscribe to the constant pounding of bands like Kreator or Slayer only, then “Terrestrial Mutations” might not work as a thrash album. It does, however, require a lot of thought and energy to listen to simply because of how much is going on throughout the record. On the whole, Droid have created an extremely unique entry into an already unique subgenre of music, and that alone makes “Terrestrial Mutations” an essential listen!

Be sure to check out and like Droid on Facebook!

"Amorphous Forms (Shapeless Shadows)"
"Suspended Animation"
"Cosmic Debt"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Written by Scott

Friday, June 16, 2017

Phylactery – Necromancy Enthroned

If there is one thing the world could use more of, it’s thrash metal. Canada in particular often seems to have a somewhat fractured scene, and so it is always a treat to discover a new band playing this style of music from my home country. Phylactery is billed as a death/thrash act with heavy influences from Sacrifice and Morbid Saint. In all honesty, this might be a bit of a disingenuous take; the former band’s sound really can’t be heard at all on “Necromancy Enthroned”, while the latter may be occasionally channeled sonically, but not quite in spirit. The real problem is that Phylactery’s vocals are straight-up death metal, displaying absolutely no thrash influence. This makes their sound definitively more diluted than the classic death/thrash acts of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Where Phylactery does shine, however, is in their riff arsenal. Thrash has always been about the riffs, and “Necromancy Enthroned” is filled to the brim with razor-sharp riffing. The guitar tone is particularly savage, making every note an aggressive experience. When the band does any form of simple picking on the low E string, this piercing tone is accentuated. The guitars aren’t excessively downtuned, allowing the bass enough room to fill the low end without sounding redundant. This is most evident when the riffs occasionally work their way up the fretboard. The production is where much of the atmosphere of this release comes from as it allows the band to successfully capture an old-school vibe. One strange curiosity about the production is that the volume actually changes across a couple of songs ("King of Ruin" into "Where I Dwell" is one example, but it also happens again towards the end of the record). It isn’t problematic, but is certainly jarring. Aside from this minor blip, the sound of this album is what will appeal to people most. 

Unquestionably, “Necromancy Enthroned” will be worshipped by any thrashers who can’t stand most modern bands. But unsurprisingly, this comes at a price. The songwriting on this record is simply adequate. The riffs rule for their runtime, but have little staying power, and there aren’t any specific vocal patterns or even sections that are extremely memorable once the album ends. This is definitely a good record, and I have no doubt that anyone who is a fan of Unspeakable Axe or Dark Descent Records will hail this as an album of the year contender, but for my tastes, it is neither true enough to it’s stated influences, nor close enough to its modern contemporaries to rank alongside either.

Be sure to check out and like Phylactery on Facebook!

All of it

Final Rating
3.9/5 or 78%. 

Written by Scott