The Emergence of Reptilian Altars
posted on 1/2012 By:
Dim Mak is one of those bands that has always existed in my peripheral vision but never enticed me enough to check them out properly. The Emergence of Reptilian Altars is my first chance to give one of their albums a complete listen, and I’m glad this chance came along. This is a quality tech-death release that trends more towards the side of fun listening than overwhelming complexity or brutality in a welcome change from the genre’s standards.
The first word that comes to mind when thinking of Dim Mak’s riffs is “personality” – most of these licks are catchy and devoid of darkness or morbidity, and are more memorable than the needly, tap-heavy style favored by many high-tech projects. It’s not so much due to serious innovation in the guitar writing, but more so to the abundance of rather upbeat melodic themes, alongside the bright solos and relative minority of palm-muting chugs. There’s some banal passages that appear to fill in the cracks from time to time, but the moments where Dim Mak shines are more than enough to compensate. The infectious groove that backs the excellent solo in “The Sounds of Carnage,” the whirlwind of twisting notes in “The Secret of the Tide of Blood,” and the silky smooth leads that surface in instrumental “Through the Rivers of Pestilence” are just a few standout moments in an album full of arresting passages.
Of course, it also bears mentioning that John Longstreth plays drums on this album, and his performance is riveting, even more so than his flashy playing on Origin’s last couple of releases. The fact that most of Dim Mak’s music is more digestible and riff-based than Origins’ allows Longstreth’s talents at accents and creative tom and cymbal accompaniments to really shine through, and it’s a pleasure to hear. There’s still plenty of absurdly fast double-kicks and hyperblasts, but the more simplistic grooves and traditional beats are just as entertaining. Unfortunately, the vocals of Joe Capizzi don’t make the transition quite as well. They aren’t terrible by any means, but his rather standard shouted growl has a very dry sound in the mix, leading it to feel detached and segregated from the backing music. And the odd, seemingly random placement of some of the vocals rhythms, combined with the rather silly mythological lyrical themes, means that the vocals quite often stick out as awkward and a little distracting.
Technical death metal has become increasingly listenable in the last few years, but Dim Mak goes somewhat beyond cramming overtly busy instrumentation into coherent songs. This is unabashedly catchy, recreational music that just happens to be constructed with outstanding musicianship and crisp production – the technical achievements are used to supplement the songwriting rather than the other way around. The Emergence of Reptilian Altars is a brief and slightly inconsistent ride, but there’s enough entertaining riffs and distinctive flavor present here to make this a worthwhile purchase for fans of technical death.
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