posted on 2/2011 By:
Neuraxis has long been one of the more underappreciated technical death bands, and they have carved a distinct and powerful niche out of their fusion of futuristic melodies with hyper-aggressive musicianship. I’ve always felt that these guys deserved a lot more credit than they’ve received in pioneering this particular branch of melodic tech death: the band had already released a pair of landmark albums in Truth Beyond... and Trilateral Progression years before bands like Decrepit Birth and Obscura brought this kind of sound to a wider audience. Despite the impressive instrumentation in all of their releases, Neuraxis has always stood out because of their willingness to place effective songwriting over complexity for complexity’s sake, basing their songs around infectious riffs and stunning melodies and rendering them in an extreme, bombastic fashion. While Asylon leans a little too heavily on the side of technicality in some ways, it's still a blistering and innovative melodic death metal album that’s more than worthy of the Neuraxis name despite not featuring any of the project’s original members.
I'll confess that the extremely polished, “techy” tone of Asylon really rubbed me the wrong way at first. Obviously an extremely clean and professional recording is to be expected in this kind of music, but the drums in particular feel overly loud and punchy and sometimes eclipse the guitars in the mix, especially with the abundance of elaborate tom fills and double-kick flourishes that constantly undulate under the riffs. But once I got past how shiny and sparkly everything sounds, it became apparent that the basic songwriting is just as strong as anything the outfit has released in the past. The band’s penchant for inspiring, dramatic melodies is beautifully realized, and every song has at least one of those riffs that just takes your breath away as soon as it drops. Ironically, my main complaint regarding Asylon is that the band’s attempts at hammering their point home with crystal-clear production and incredibly complex musicianship actually obscures the message of the music rather than advances it. I felt like I had to sort of wade through the pristine aesthetic of this album much like getting to the heart of a raw buzzy black metal release, and only when I felt I had accomplished this did the songs truly connect with me.
And when they did… wow. Any fans who felt worried at the slightly ho-hum nature of The Thin Line Between should be more than satisfied with the band’s efforts here. All the tracks are bursting with a kind of crackling, dangerous energy that many tech-death bands seem unable to summon, and the jaw-dropping extremity and speed is made consistently relevant by the strength of the riffs and progressions within each song. The urgent thrashing of opener “Reptile” and the uplifting riff/solo segment of “Savior and Destroyer” are just ridiculously catchy and invigorating for this style of metal, as are the shimmering melodies that envelop the listener in songs like “Purity” and “V.” Occasionally the technical arrangements are overdone and the transitions suffer as a result (“Trauma,” “Left to Devour”), but the band rarely gets mired in these kids of embellishments too long before unleashing yet another delectable riff or intricate groove, and the melodies manage to be captivating and even heart-warming without ever venturing near the dreaded melodramatic territory. I will say that, given their prominence, Alex LeBlanc’s vocals ring kind of hollow when placed atop the elaborate compositions. Previous vocalist Ian Campbell definitely had a more distinctive style, but LeBlanc makes a solid effort to keep his delivery interesting even if his tone is a little more dull than his predecessor's. Either way, the vocals rarely detract anything from the music even if they don't add much to it either, and there’s more than enough jaw-dropping guitar and drum work to keep your ears occupied regardless.
I have to give Neuraxis credit for surprising me in the end with this record. I was fairly certain that I didn’t like it much at all after several listens (even wrote almost an entire review expressing such a sentiment), and albums that initially make a bad impression with me don’t usually grow on me the way Asylon has. While it's far from the band’s finest hour, it's still a top-notch foray into the world of melodic technical death metal and another great entry in a discography that stands up to any tech-death band in the biz. Buy it and enjoy.
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The Thin Line Between