A few years ago I went on the Transformers ride at Universal Studios. What I remember is being shunted backwards, forwards and sideways, stopping and starting with explosions going on and instructions being boomed. The patterns of “The Möbius Strip” are a bit like that. It’s technical, it’s death metal and the band do like their vocal sound effects.
I got to know about this through a Swedish friend. Psychopress are from Taiwan. No boundaries. This is globalisation. Indeed, one of the many things I like about this album is the broad brush. It sweeps across you like a journey, switching stylistic landscapes and creating a world of transforming images. The sounds are distinct, from the bass to the sharp guitar melodies and the periodic lush passages. I could associate the core style with Cynic, Zero Hour and Fallujah, and there’s all that, but Psychopress are controlling the buttons. This hits you in the face right from the opening track “Altruist”. It’s melodious, it’s furious, it’s technical. The sound is sharp. The riffs are complex. Solos blend into this battery of technicality. Now and again we are woken from the trance, but it’s like running after a highly efficient express train. Exhilarating. It slows down at the end and leads us into “Hypocrite”, another death-thrash romp which is imbued with complexity and flavour. As if to make a statement, the ante is upped and the sound becomes more epic. Then the vocal overlord, complete with distortion, comes us to remind us that the end is nigh. The guitar line at this point is deceptively delicate, jazzy even. The song swings between this and irresistible all out technical attack. I felt classic metal creeping into “Lucid Dream”, but there’s so much more. In fact, convention is off the table as we head off into a psychedelic and cosmic world. “Lucid nightmares” would seem a more appropriate title, and that is one of the song’s lyrics. It’s a journey though the mind. Like the rest of this album, “Lucid Dream” is a feast of flavours.
The progressive technical extravaganza continues with “The Other Side”. This certainly has two sides – the uncompromising technical death metal, and a sophisticated section of melancholy and even beauty. While listening to it I pondered the album’s title. The twist of a Möbius strip, a mathematical conundrum, belies the fact that it is the same side of the piece of paper or ribbon which is joined up. This album has abundant twists, and Psychopress are never reluctant to reinforce this. At times it’s like being in an electric storm. The beauty continues with the lush instrumental “Root”, but this is fleeting as the final three tracks serve to reinforce the intensity and complexity of these songs. A colourful and atmospheric pause for reflection is the prompt for one final, mind-blowing technical attack.
If ever I go on a run or a hike, there are the nice flat bits where you get some respite while putting the miles in. Other than the standalone instrumental “Root”, you don’t get that on this album. I think Psychopress could have indulged us a bit there and sucked us in more. At 36 minutes in length, there’s time to explore the existing instead of immediately developing the new. It’s the classic debut album syndrome – Psychopress have in fact been around for 8 years – where bands like to get all their ideas in at the expense of overall shape. But this may be deliberate. The band’s name stands for psychological oppression, so I guess indulging us is not their way. Also this immediate approach keeps the album dynamic, and kept my brain in gear throughout. “The Möbius Strip” is a well produced exciting, inventive and creative album. I look forward to hearing more of Psychopress in the future.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)