The Inherited Repression
posted on 1/2012 By:
I count myself in a relative minority of listeners who believe that Psycroptic has been trending steadily upward with their last few releases. This band has shown perhaps the most interesting trajectory of any technical death metal act in the last several years. While many projects have opted for a more straightforward approach compared to the style popular in the early part of the decade, few bands have done so with the natural flair that Psycroptic has. With the more balanced and cohesive vocals of Jason Peppiatt and a more mature and focused approach to songwriting, these guys have been on a serious upswing since breakthrough album The Scepter of the Ancients, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting a new release ever since 2008’s excellent Ob(Servant).
In many ways, The Inherited Repression is exactly the follow-up I expected after Ob(Servant) in terms of execution. It sees these Australians continue to make their music more digestible and riff-based while somehow sacrificing relatively little of their technicality and note-scrambling guitar style. While I wasn't surprised to see this direction continue from the band, I was impressed and pleased with how well they pull it off. The Inherited Repression is easily the catchiest Psycroptic effort to date, and while this focus on memorable songs comes at the expense of some of the "wow" factor of their previous albums, the strength of the material makes it a worthwhile tradeoff.
Every element of this album seems fashioned with the intent towards listenability in mind. Most noticeable is the increased use of mid-paced passages, with less blasting in favor of more grooves and stripped-down beats. While this may cause alarm for tech-death enthusiasts, the sense of intensity is maintained thanks to the consistently stunning theatrics in the guitar department. Joe Haley has always been a master at cramming impossibly fast, intricate tremolo runs into tight, compact spaces, but this talent takes on a new meaning thanks to this album’s more comprehensible song structures. The best moments on The Inherited Repression see the band take a solid, catchy riff and splice in brief flourishes of technical showmanship in a manner that still makes musical sense. Perhaps the most impressive showcase of this trait is closer “The Sleepers Have Awoken,” which features a sublime recurrent groove peppered with brief flashes of shredding hyper-melodies that's destined to become locked on repeat in your brain. The skillful contrast between accessibility and complexity is made even more enjoyable by Haley’s distinctive guitar tone. The spiraling riffage feels incredibly rich and textured, with heavier accents delivered with a satisfying crunch and the noodly figures with a shimmering, undulating edge.
The band has always written songs in a similar template, of course. But Psycroptic’s determination to let musicality prevail over showboating casts this album in quite a different light, even compared to Ob(Servant). On previous works, the outfit often cycled riffs in an extremely fragmented manner, typically by slicing small snippets of a progression out and serving it back again in a different framework. On The Inherited Repression, riffs are not only given room to breathe, but significant time to stake their claim in the song and stick in your memory. On my first couple of listens, I couldn’t believe how often the band just grooved on a particular riff before changing things up. Similarly, Jason Peppiat’s vocals have taken an increasingly diplomatic role in the songs. Peppiatt is more than willing to drop back in silence to allow for extended instrumental segments this time around, and his increasingly streamlined repertoire of vocal sounds makes it feel like he’s not constantly vying for the spotlight anymore. Of course, there will be many who lament the almost complete absence of growls or screams -- it’s virtually all the hardcore-inspired shouts he introduced on the last album -- but it’s a fair tradeoff considering how much more tactful the vocals are in the placement of the songs. On top of all of this is easily the best production job the band has had to date. There’s a surprisingly organic warmth and satisfying bottom-end to the mix, and the ruthlessly clicky bass drum sound of Ob(Servant) has thankfully been significantly improved.
Of course, the one issue with laying more emphasis on individual riffs is that the song suffers more if the riffs aren’t as good. There are definitely a few sporadic clunkers throughout the album’s nine songs, and there are also instances where I do miss the manic intensity and speed that this band used to bring to the table. But the strength and memorable nature of the writing as a whole makes the less compelling moments easy to get past. This is still a Psycroptic album; the riffing style is unmistakable, the drumming is immaculate, and there’s more than enough catchy and intricate riff work here for technical metal enthusiasts to sink their teeth into. While it probably won’t win any former fans back over, The Inherited Repression nevertheless sets a high bar for tech-death in 2012, and is one of the year’s first must-own releases.
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