Thursday, November 22, 2012

Atheretic - Apocalyptic Nature Fury


Montreal not only has a very healthy metal scene to begin with, but they also have an unusual amount of technical and progressive death bands. Atheretic is one of the much more underground bands. Unfortunately, Atheretic is one of those bands that are pretty much only known by the hardcore tech death fans and the huge supporters of the Montreal metal scene. The reason why these guys haven’t released an album since 2006 is because most of the musicians are in much, much bigger acts. Founding member and vocalist Alexandre is the recent, but already legendary vocalist for tech death monsters Neuraxis, and the drummer was part of one of the biggest death metal acts of the local Montreal scene, Vengeful. The member that attracted me to these guys more than any other is the guy who I consider to be one of the best metal bassists of all-time, Dominic Lapointe, who is currently the bassist for the AMAZING progressive death band Augury, as well as having played with Quo Vadis and Negativa. I’m not the biggest fan of the Neuraxis vocalist, but he’s never disappointed me, I have no idea what Vengeful’s music sounds like, but I would never hesitate to listen to something that features one of my favorite bassists.

Although this doesn’t really seem like it should matter much, everyone (for some reason) HAS to point out that Atheretic started in 1997 as a traditional death metal band under the name Satanized. After releasing one demo under that name, I’m assuming that they had a shift in musical creativity and decided to start off fresh under a different name. Atheretic then went on to release their first full-length that has much more of a really brutal and experimental death grind sound than anything else that didn’t really get the best feedback (it’s ok, but not really that special). Two years after Dominic’s other band, Augury, released their legendary debut known as Concealed, Atheretic went under yet ANOTHER shift in musical creativity and release what I am going to talk about today, Apocalyptic Nature Fury.

Just about everything that was wrong with their first album is gone. When you listen to it, you hear an immense amount of creativity, but not enough instrumental skill to release it. I’m not aware of any direct relations or connections between Atheretic and the Kansas technical death behemoths Origin, but the number of similarities in the music surprised me. Something that a lot of technical death bands are trying to do is sound extremely tight by playing primarily staccato notes with the drummer playing mainly the toms and kick drums. Not only in the bigger acts, but also in some of the new and uprising underground bands like Ayin, Carnophage, and Slaughtery have been shaping their sound like this. Origin, the guys who are considered the forefathers and leaders of this sound in their genre, are technical, but rely more on speed, blast beats, and having a wall-of-sound feel to their music that sounds more like constant stampede of brutality than complex arpeggios and polyrhythmic breakdowns. This is what Atheretic does, except they still have some hints of grindcore in their music here and there.

The thing that Origin does that Atheretic DOESN’T do is that ultra-high-pitched guitar shredding. Atheretic uses the same method to create that noisy wall-of-sound that Origin does, and that is use an extremely fuzzy guitar distortion that isn’t as metallic and crunchy. Just to create some examples of contrast so that you know what I’m talking about, guitar distortions that are the OPPOSITE of what I’m talking about are used by Fleshgod Apocalypse, Decapitated, and Hour of Penance. Like a lot of things in music, everything that is used has some drawbacks, and the major drawback that comes with the fuzzy guitar distortions is that it’s much harder to hear what chords and notes the guitarists are playing. It’s not impossible, don’t get that impression, but for those of you that make a big deal out of being able to hear what notes are being played and other stuff like that, this could definitely bother you after a bit.

Besides the occasional guitar solos, Atheretic goes against the generic technical death method and puts most of their complexity in the drums and bass, just like Decapitated…only three times faster. Obviously, you could probably already tell before that the bass is what I love the most about these guys. And as a matter of fact, I’m not the only one that thinks so; and after reading other reviews on the internet by people that were drooling over the bassist, a lot of them either didn’t know that he was from Augury or had no idea who the fuck Augury was! Pretty much 94% of the soloing is done by the bassist alone, and it’s almost constant. Behind the wall of monotonous blast beats and noisy tremolo picking, you can hear Dominic playing scales, arpeggios, solos, shreds, and just random licks where he repeatedly and gracefully goes up and down the neck with no effort at all. That’s what I love about Dominic’s playing; he makes it sound so damn effortless! When you hear his playing, it all sounds so relaxed and almost psychedelic at some points. After reading over what I literally just put down, I can see how that doesn’t seem like it should fit with this immense brutality that Atheretic plays.

Dominic’s playing style has always been the much more abstract type that isn’t always perfectly sound with the rest of the music. But that’s part of why I love him so much! The unfortunate problem we have here is that there are many parts of the album where the bass is SO out-of-place and SO abstract that it actually doesn’t sound good. Those bassists that sound like they’re playing an entirely different song but still sound good with the rest of the band can sometimes have trouble because it’s more than possible to overdo it. In Apocalyptic Nature Fury, there are just too many parts where Dominic overdoes it. When we have the guitars shredding the lowest-possible chords, Dominic is in a different dimension where’s he’s playing all this complex shit on the two highest strings on his bass and, well, it just doesn’t match up at all! I love the idea of it, and I’ve seen it be done before, but this is just crossing the line WAY too much.

Besides that, Dominic couldn’t possibly be more in-sync with the guitarists and the drummer as far as tempo and the complex riffs go. Here’s another problem that I have with this album: each of the songs sound a little TOO similar. Something that’s definitely become a source of competition amongst technical death bands is making the individual songs much more unique rather than focusing more on making the overall sound of the album itself unique. When you look at some of the more recent efforts by Spawn of Possession, Rings of Saturn, Psycroptic, Obscura, The Faceless, and The Black Dahlia Murder, you can tell that they’ve been putting more focus on each individual song than before. And fortunately for many of them, this has been helping them out immensely, especially the bands that still created an album that has its own unique sound while managing to make each song differ from each other. This is similar to the problem that Dominic had is that it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s TOO much. The songs end up being TOO monotonous and a little TOO unmemorable.

I couldn’t ask the drumming to be any different. The drummer’s blast beats are brutal, tight, and give the music a bit of a grindcore vibe that was probably pulled from the band’s first album. Although I may have made the drawbacks this album holds sound much worse than they actually are, they’re still drawbacks; but honestly, I can see through them easily to the point where if I’m listening to all my technical death stuff on shuffle, I don’t notice any of it. Apocalyptic Nature Fury is a technical death album that anyone looking for something more obscure to have in their collection NEEDS to have. Atheretic have surprised me with this piece and I have high hopes for a follow-up to be released sometime down the road…after Augury gets around to releasing their much-needed Fragmentary Evidence follow-up. I would give Atheretic’s Apocalyptic Nature Fury 16/20.