Sunday, September 30, 2012

Back Door to Asylum - Akathisia


Russia has been pretty reliable with the underground death metal releases they’ve been putting out recently. That’s why I was instantly looking forward to this one when Amputated Vein Records (a brutal death label I follow closely) announced the signing of the Russian technical death band Back Door to Asylum. When the label posted one of the tracks from the album on their website, I got something different than what I was expecting. Most would consider a statement like that to be a disclaimer (and most of the time it is), but fear not, Back Door to Asylum is a great fix for those of you that are starved of quality tech death. Due to the fact that there’s next to no (at least somewhat) detailed info on the band OR album on the internet, I’m basically writing this review solely on the music at hand without much background info on it (other than that they’re fucking Russian).

The vocalist is one of the better ones that I’ve heard in a while. He does all very high-quality inhales that have a very strong sound. Oh yeah, I should also mention that the former Fleshbomb vocalist and the vocalist and the drummer from Gorgasm all do guest vocals on the album. The thing is, I have no fucking idea where they are and what tracks they do vocals on. I have a feeling that the Gorgasm vocalist does guest vocals on the eighth track since there’s a couple of random brutal death-style breakdowns with extremely deep inhaled growls. But there’s no telling for sure. I’m not even the biggest fan of Gorgasm OR Fleshbomb (I don’t hate either, though), but this might be a cool thing for those of you that ARE fans of them. I will admit that the added element of the inhaled vocals does a great job of giving the music a great twist and a different sounds perfect for the situation.

Most of the TRULY underground technical death that I’ve heard over the past year or so has been mainly mediocre. The majority of the bands have either put too much focus on brutality, extreme and overwhelming technicality, speed, or a combination of two or more of those elements. For me, as long as there’s at least SOMETHING behind that extra stuff, it’s not horrible. For example, some of the most technical bands in existence: Rings of Saturn, Slaughterbox, and Origin have seemingly inhuman instrumental skills and speed capabilities. But they all have at least obvious signs of some kind of musical structure behind their overwhelming guitar shredding. An example of an album that puts 100% of the focus on technicality and brutality would be Brain Drill’s Quantum Catastrophe. This album has no signs of musical structure or attempted atmosphere whatsoever. Back Door to Asylum is an example of what I look for when I sift through enormous lists of the technical death genre’s newest underground bands.

Is the instrumental complexity at an Origin-comparable level? Not even close. The technicality most definitely shines through, but not through all of the instruments like in other bands. The guitars aren’t any more technical than Deicide, which isn’t something that hasn’t been done before in technical death. The vocals don’t follow a really weird pattern like Fleshgod Apocalypse, The Faceless, and Rings of Saturn; the vocal patterns remain fairly predictable for the duration of the album. Even the overall structure of the music isn’t overly complex and thick! That is…except for the bass and drums.

 Since the bassist is the biggest attraction that this band holds, I’ll talk about the drummer first. The drummer plays these REALLY tight explosive blast beats that remind me of Fleshgod Apocalypse…except not quite as fast and technical. The snare sounds like it’s had SOME of the buzz taken off, but not all (I don’t know how that would be done). But it has the really tinny sound that a snare has when you take the buzz off, but you can still hear the buzz (I can’t think of a better way to explain that). Anyway, because of that, the snare is naturally louder than normal and therefore makes the downbeats of the blast beats bolder and much more profound. Since these guys have an extremely skilled drummer, it sounds AMAZING. I could use for the kick drums to have some more body to their sound on the lower end. But they don’t sound super weak and “clicky”.

The bassist is hands-down, the man of the hour here. Not only does the technicality of what he plays the same as that of the drummer, but he’s also the most musically creative and expressive member of the band. On top of SEVERAL mind-blowing bass solos and blasting fills, there’s even an entire track on the album that’s a fucking bass solo. The interlude track titled Detachment contains nothing but the bass guitarist and some random background noises. The overall sound of the track itself is very experimental and atmospheric, not heavy, complex, or even fast at all. It’s sort of like a really ambient guitar solo…except it’s a bass. This display of musical and creative diversity raises this band’s credibility by a whole fucking bunch. I initially almost skipped over this track since it started out with…well…not much. But after I listened to the whole thing, it was one of those “I wasn’t expecting that at ALL” kind of moments where you need an extra couple of seconds to comprehend what you just heard.

Russia’s Back Door to Asylum brings you some of the most crushing technical brutality that’s been released since Spawn of Possession’s Incurso. The album could most definitely do without the unnecessary intro and outro tracks (the album needs to be longer to have those). This isn’t an easy album to find, but if you do (surefire way to find it is on Amputated Vein’s website), don’t turn down the opportunity because this is a one-of-a-kind slab of metal. I would give Akathisia 15/20.