Manifests Of Human Existence
posted on 10/2010 By:
For those of you who don't watch Animal Planet, the echidna is a spiny anteater that's sort of like a porcupine and sort of like a platypus. It's not a terribly fearsome creature, unless you're an ant or you're irrationally terrified of monotremes. (Or perhaps not so irrationally—male platypuses are venomous and have a barb in their legs not unlike a stinger. To my knowledge, the echidna is less dangerous, but it does have spiny quills. Both the echidna and the platypus are electroreceptive, meaning they can detect the electrical fields in living things, which is both fascinating and kinda creepy.) I bring all this up because, upon my initial introduction to this Greek prog-death outfit, my first reaction was, "You named your band after a spiny anteater endemic to Australia and New Guinea?" Well, it turns out that I need to turn off the telly and brush up on my Greek mythology—the animal echidna (and undoubtedly the band Echidna) is named after the half-woman / half-snake mythological mother of monsters ranging from the Gorgon to Cerebus to the Chimera, which is a far more frightening and metal band-name inspiration than is a platypus. (The origin of the name "platypus" is also Greek—from "platys" meaning "broad or flat" and "pous" meaning "foot," "flat foot," which is probably the last distinguishing characteristic after which I would think to name the platypus . The fact that the word is of Greek origin and not Latin is why the plural is not "platypi." Don't say I don't teach you anything, kids...)
All etymological origins of oddball Australasian animals aside, this Grecian Echidna is a damn good band. Manifests Of Human Existence is their first full-length, following 2006’s four-song …This Suffering, and once-again, this one’s a self-released effort. Manifests is a tougher, smarter, more embellished take on the death / thrash style begun on Suffering, and the band’s progressive tendencies are ratcheted up even further now. Vocalist Theo Deligiannidis has adopted a deeper roar alongside his Chuck Schuldiner / Darren Travis growl, while the instrumental side of the Echidna show is often dominated by twisting guitars atop the nimble glides of bassist Antonis Roditis, whose fretless runs slip and slide superbly through the bottom end of these tunes. The combination of challenging riffage, prog-symphonic flourishes and complex rhythmic interplay puts Echidna somewhere between Death and Opeth, with bits of Meshuggah chunk and Atheist / Cynic jazz-tinted technicality scattered throughout.
Album opener "Whispers" features the band’s most overt Schuldiner inspiration, technical and driving with melodic leanings, and as the album progresses, so does the band, incorporating all the elements of their sound as they move further beyond the Sadus / Death influence that mostly defined Suffering. Manifests’ centerpiece, both figuratively and literally, is the three-part "Tractatus Cerebri" (which is Latin, not Greek)—split into three acts, the first and third of which are instrumental, the overall suite exhibits Echidna’s most complex and progressive songwriting. "Act One: To Be" sports a cinematic intro that opens with chiming guitars and subtle keyboards beneath wordless screaming and film samples, off-kilter riffing and guitar squalling, all of which segues neatly into the chugging staccato theme and spiraling leads of the beginning of "Act Two: Driven Into." Most of the actual song is contained within "Two," twisting death metal with melodic lead guitar work, more sparse sampling, and a clean jazzy guitar break to spice things up, before "Act Three: A Twisted State Of Mind" returns with more piano work, samples and a drifting, lilting Opeth-ian feel.
The shadows of Schuldiner and Akerfeldt loom large over Manifests, but Echidna does the legends proud, adding enough flair of their own to make them more than just an Op-Death mash-up. Fans of vintage tech-death and progressive death metal in general will want to check this out post-haste. Manifests Of Human Existence is a very promising independent record from a band heretofore unknown to me—Echidna is an unsigned band poised for greater things. Keep an ear on ‘em
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