Progressive Death Metal is a tricky branch of the Death Metal genre in how it seems to work on two basic premises; (1) Ridiculous levels of proficiency in musical delivery and composition capabilities, and (2) Trying to get as much shit into a song as you can whilst still maintaining some logic or flow or strange order to it. Out of the numerous bands who try to make this their trade, more seem to lean to the clinical and mechanical aspects of technical death metal*, lacking that organic feel which the more progressive minded ones seem to have. [*Granted, there are those who seem to believe that technical and progressive are interchangeable with regards to death metal but personally, the more explorative and flexible stylings of some bands lean more to a progressive labelling but that is grounds for a debate on a forum, not a review!] Moving on swiftly, Barcelona’s Moonloop are one of those bands who lean more to the progressive side, adding some fusion styled sequences and moments to their songs, much in the vein of the legendary Cynic, who set the bar pretty high when it comes to this particular approach… So, can they measure up to such lofty standards?
Honestly, it’s hard to say. Across the album, there are moments where the use of the ‘surreal’ sounding sections of songs, clearly identified by the synth ambience has a surrounding feel to it and the use of intricate, often obscure sounding scale based passages and predominantly clean tones add some warmness and even a touch of exotic flair to the sound really does seem to measure up to the standards set by the almighty ‘Focus’ (Still one of the best DM albums of all time !!)
Aside from the emulation aspects in bending the sound to create captivating moments which at times do get you off guard, the spine of it; the death metal sound with some real intense and precise lines which hit with some impressive swiftness, is of course where the real deciding factors come in. With eight tracks and an hour’s worth of intricacies to enjoy, the real rawness does hold some weight. Opening track ‘Megalodon’ packs a real low-end weighted punch with the heaviness but still retains the clarity required to allow every single note in the rapid bursts of intricate sequences to be fully appreciated, all pushed on with the expected polyrhythmic groove. ‘Zeal’ has more pace to it, packing another stinging blow, particularly with the sneering and almost venomous vocal delivery whilst ‘Expired Kings’, despite having some real solid sounding moments later in the track, unfortunately wins the title of most annoying track on the album due to the overuse of pinch harmonics, making the likes of Mr Flynn and Mr Wylde look like teenagers first discovering how to play a metalcore riff!
In all, the technical and crushing moments of death metal are evenly balanced by the more warm and intriguing fusion style breaks. The chaos and the order, dark and light, [other metaphor here] and so on… whilst it works overall, delivering a well rounded album which plays to its strengths, a solid attention grabbing experience initially which has some impressive transitions from chaos to calm, after some listens, it kind of all blurs into one which is a shame… That and the fact it sits well in the shadow of Cynic, the unfortunately high standard set for bands who pursue a sound like this.
Needless to say, for what it is, ‘Devocean’ is a decent slice of progressive death metal and as vast and deep as the ocean is, and no matter what lurks beneath the surface, it’s what floats on top which matters, and sadly for Moonloop, Cynic are that buoy in the vast body of progressive death metal.