Company: Nuclear Blast Release: 2008 Reviewer: Raising Iron Genre: Death
By no means have they reached their potential
Psycroptic have returned with their fourth outing, Ob(servant), and for the first time, they find themselves on the reputable Nuclear Blast label. Hailing from New Zealand, these guys play technical death metal, bringing to mind the likes of Meshuggah or Martyr. I've not heard their previous outing, Symbol of Failure, but do own their second release, Sceptre of the Ancients, and that's where my comparisons lie.
After several listens, there are a number of things problematic here, many relating to the production. Things are just too crisp and clean this time, which isn't bad, but it takes a bit away from the brutality of the music. Second, the drums are mixed too much to the fore, and they've been compressed too tightly. Now, I understand, with the speed at which these guys play you better use a healthy dose of compression to keep things from sounding like complete mush, but this is excessive, the result being too mechanical. Also, the guitars are a little too thin. This is death metal after all, and while you don't have to have a "fat" guitar tone ala the early Sunlight Studio sound, it should have more beef to it than found here. The current vocalist isn't bad, but often his delivery reminds one too much of metalcore, and not death metal. Lastly, after a dozen listens, I'm remembering only a small handful of riffs, movements, lyrics, etc. The compositions are just too generic.
Now, lest ye think Psycroptic have completely blown it with this release, let's look at some positives. The riffing, as unmemorable as it may be at times, is unbelievable. Guitarist Joe Haley presents stacks upon stacks of swirling, manic speedsters, proving he's no fluke in the talent department, reminding one of the same complaints levied against half a million prog metal bands out there. Hell, he may even be studying Jeff Loomis in detail, as his approach is heavily reminiscent of that Nevermore wiz. The drums are insanely fast and locked down tight, I imagine drummer David Haley being hooked up to a saline injection while playing live to keep from keeling over!
So, while being on a major metal label will no doubt garner much needed exposure, these guys really need to find a bit more imagination in the writing department. The talent is there, but right now they've all but left death metal behind, and they haven't expanded upon the compositional approach while doing so. Overall, a decent work, but by no means have they reached their potential.
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