Psycroptic - _The Scepter of the Ancients_
(Unique Leader, 2003)
by: Brian Meloon (
I was almost sure that Spawn of Possession's _Cabinet_ [CoC #67]
would be my favorite disc of 2003, but Psycroptic's second release is
perhaps even better. Australia's Psycroptic play fast, technical death
metal featuring a constantly-changing barrage of riffs. They keep the
tempo fast enough and the riffs changing frequently enough that it's
hard to classify them as "brutal", though their music is certainly
very aggressive. Their music is highly syncopative, but they add some
melodic elements and even a few guitar leads to avoid sounding too
one-dimensional. The riffs themselves, while generally above-average,
aren't overly original, but it's their execution that is so impressive.
In particular, two things really strike me about this release. The first
is the agility of some of the riffs: they're able to switch tempos,
feels, and/or time signatures on a dime, which is very difficult to do
in the middle of a blast beat. The second is their tightness: several
sections simply wouldn't have been as effective without the band being as
tight as they are. Needless to say, the drums, guitars, and bass are all
exceptionally well played. The vocals are also very impressive, as their
vocalist has a lot of versatility. His main vocals are a mix of shouting,
screaming, and growling, but he also incorporates a guttural style, a few
Cradle of Filth-style screams, a slightly distorted style that reminds
me of early-'90s Pantera, and several others. Most of these styles
are very effective and fit the music very well.If there's a problem
with this release, it's that they often resort to simply average riffs,
especially at the beginnings of songs. Their best songs don't really
have an intro that reaches out and grabs you, and their best moments
are often buried in the middle of songs. In addition, they sometimes
follow up an excellent section that they've been building for a while
with a distinctly average one, breaking the momentum that they had built.
Nevertheless, they are usually able to recover this momentum within a
few measures. The production is very good; it's clear enough that all of
the instruments are clearly audible, and it fits the music well enough.
I can't imagine a fan of technical death metal not liking this release.
On the other hand, it probably won't appeal to those who like to groove
to their music or demand catchy hooks or melodies. Since I'm firmly
in the former camp, I'm eagerly awaiting their next release and hunting
down their debut album, _The Isle of Disenchantment_ [CoC #53].
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