Wow! This is a very rare occurrence for me. I don’t recall the last time I wrote a review while listening to an album for the first time. Usually it takes a couple takes for me to find the mood of the record and put fingers to keyboard while breaking down a song at a time. But not today. I was already 4 songs into the album before realising I was over a third of the way through my review. Sure, this intro was written after the fact, but everything below is as raw and as visceral as the album.
Well… new bassist Brandon Michael makes himself known within the first 3s of “Parthenogenesis”, before Greg Burgess and Michael Stancel try to drown him out with their lead trade-offs and alternating between acoustic and electric guitars.
Riley McShane steps up to the plate on “Interphase // Meiosis” with long drawn out almost unintelligible growls that contrast with Brandon Park’s syncopated drum rhythms, and those constantly changing guitar riffs and bass lead break.
The slow triplets on guitars and drums are quickly replaced by manic blasts as the vocals on “Extremophiles (B)” come in. The roars are deep and emphatic, but it’s the constant bass runs that are truly mesmerising. Definitely a song for those of us that love extreme metal. Even the clean vocals come across as unexpected a glass of cold water in the face.
“The Secular Age” is possibly one of their most straightforward songs with a steady riff structure that doesn’t keep expounding upon itself, and it works by adding that touch of brutality that would be diluted with complication. Even the leads don’t vie off on random tangents to the unknown.
While for “Exothermic Chemical Combustion”, they do a combination of having a simple enough riff being blasted to oblivion by the second guitar and the manic bass runs, making the vocals the only constant throughout the song. The leads manage to have a light airy quality to them, allowing them to float above the cacophony but somehow add to it excellently.
The low deep growls are back for “Extremophiles (A)”, but this time the guitars are two intertwining melodies, having the bass accenting the vocal cadence before the leads fight to outrun each other.
It’s weird to think that a melody can be found under blasting at the speed done on “Metaphobia”, but manage it they do, even if the leads do require everything to slow down a touch in order for them to be performed as intricately as they are.
Feeling rather laid back and refreshing, “Tsunami and Submergence” may still have erratic drum patterns working around the ever-changing riffs and popping bass, but it’s the melodious clean vocals that really bring home fact that extreme music can be emotive and uplifting when at either end of the spectrum.
Christina Sandsengen lends a hand with the acoustic guitars on the exquisite “Colors of the Currents”, as this short interlude allows you to catch your breath for a moment.
The ebb and flow of the riffs on “Stellar Tidal Disruption” allow for the regular lead breaks to meander unhindered by the need to reign themselves in, as they do not disrupt, even when being played over the vocals.
The final and title track “Apoptosis” is an epic 10 minute song that starts off slowly with soaring vocals, showing that Riley has no problem hitting high notes when required of him, but still growling with ferocity when it’s what the song needs more than melody.
So the line-up change certainly has done them no harm, as the Brandon’s bass definitely stands up to Greg and Michael’s guitars, stands out even, which in my book is better as it adds to the flair of the songs and gives them that added pop.
(9/10 Marco Gaminara)