Saturday, February 8, 2014

Album Review: Soreption - Engineering the Void

Album Score: B+
Death metal is a genre that presents a conundrum of sorts for new artists. In order to be considered a player, a band has to fulfill certain expectations: precise musicianship, guttural vocals, challenging tempos, complex and ever-changing riffs, incessant double-kick drumming, guitar-centric structures, and so forth. The problem with such standards is that they also portend a certain amount of conformity, and therefore a band must also find a way to stand out without violating these essential characteristics of death metal. Soreption is a rising group that finds itself on the fence between these paradigms – perhaps perfectly so, as Engineering the Void sticks to its tech death guns while striving for a voice of its own. Such is the luxury afforded to a group as fundamentally sound as this Swedish quartet as they balance impressive chops with intrepid songwriting on their sophomore effort.

Engineering the Void is an album that immediately gets down to business. Lead track “Reveal the Unseen” begins with a flurry of blast beats and fast-rising guitar leads, then trades them for an oddly-timed but addictive riff. The track exudes confidence as it powers through a series of variations upon the original theme, a technique which becomes a hallmark of the album as a whole. While Fredrik Söderberg’s growled vocals are largely genre-typical in timbre, they move around within the mix and are used in call-and-response fashion to add a deceptively diverse top layer to each song. Speaking of layers, the depth of Engineering’s mix is a decided strength throughout the album. Impressively, Anton Svedin plays all of the guitar parts, which are panned heavily and often differ minutely but intuitively to create space within the mix for the drums and vocals to fill. On “Breaking the Great Narcissist,” a recurring riff skips freely between duple and triple time as the bass and drums pound sixteenth notes, giving the song a polyrhythmic feel without actually leaving its established groove.

“Breaking the Great Narcissist” is also the first track in which Soreption introduces symphonic elements, another motif of the album. In contrast to actual symphonic death metal, in which orchestral backings are present throughout, Soreption uses ethereal breaks and choral accompaniments as stark changes in the temperament of a given song. Just as things start to run together, “Monumental Burden” breaks into an expansive bridge led by synth pads and deep brass, which marches ominously for thirty seconds before giving way to sweeping guitar arpeggios. The change effectively resets any monotony that had been building, and clears a path for “I am You” to slash its way forward with more mechanized riffing and stop-on-a-dime percussion. The rhythmic patterns within songs often change measure to measure, giving Engineering the Void a feeling of restlessness and vitality that a lot of djent bands could take a lesson from. This almost certainly stems from Soreption’s creative process, which begins with the drums. “It was something we started out doing in the early stages of the band and we have kept the writing technique since then,” the band explains. “We still want a very clean mechanical type of sound but we wanted to make the sound a bit more organic this time.”

The overall vibe is very much a mechanical one, as Engineering the Void lives up to the implications of its title. Regarding rest of the name, the “void” appears to be a loss of individuality and free thinking in our world; in the band’s words, “a way of seeing the world today, or in the near future, through a dystopian lens. It's not a political thing – more like perceptions [of] what society does to mankind.” Perhaps it’s a topic that’s been mined for all it’s worth, but it’s one that nonetheless fits well into Soreption’s precisely-machined musical sphere. Fortunately, Soreption largely succeeds in its efforts to fuse craft with art, and the various creative forays within Engineering the Void give it a leg up on the tech death masses. With crisp execution and dynamic arrangements, Engineering the Void is an impressive second statement from a band that is on the fast track to success if they can maintain their fine balance between tradition and innovation.

Track List:

1. Reveal The Unseen
2. The Nature Of Blight
3. Breaking The Great Narcissist
4. A Speech To Survival
5. Utopia
6. Monumental Burden
7. I Am You
8. Engineering The Void

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