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Technical death metal can be a really mixed bag. Often enough, bands who unite under such banners focus too much on creating deep, technical, progressive music that they forget to include other essential song writing techniques. Beneath the Massacre anyone? Or maybe their music does encompass distinguishable song writing efforts and yet still fails to maintain the listener's interest because, well, it's just far too technical for its own good. Martyr comes to mind in this case. But of course, not all tech death metal bands are bad. Take California's Element, for example. Formed in 2004, they've had some difficulties with their line-up (and they are currently searching for a new vocalist), but through all the uncertainty, waiting, recording, and promoting, Element has finally released its debut album, Aeons Past.
Similarly to the Jordanian-Polish band Ajdath, who I reviewed last week, Element combines chaotic guitars; low, distorted shouts; heavy drum presence; and a reliance on brutal, technical song arrangements to create their music. And just as Ajdath's Triangle of Death incorporates some of band leader Omar Al Kilani's native Arabic music into his violent, riff-driven work, Element incorporates subtle sci-fi influences into their writings, be it through quirky, yet enjoyable atmospheric elements, as can be heard in the title track, or through the riffing, as heard in the likes of the instrumental, Dying Sund Descent. To accomplish their vision, each band member (okay, the bass is somewhat low in the mix) has put forth a rather strong effort. Guitarists Mason Gregory and Chris Lozano play a large role in the music, crafting an intense barrage off riffs which manage to sound technical and progressive without sounding mechanical and pointless. Not to be outdone is studio drummer KC Howard, whose exceptional performances create an atmosphere similar to that of guitars. To say that they're rather effective and more than just a rhythmic device would be an understatement.
Only nine tracks long and 30 minutes in length, Aeons Past is not a long album. But Element makes the most of their seemingly brief debut run-time. Most of Aeons Past's tracks are around two-three minutes in length and this element, pardon the pun, works in their favour, as none of the songs feels as though they drag on for too long or do not have time to maximize their effect. The title track of Element's debut album, Aeons Past, is perhaps the strongest piece of writing here. Starting with a calm, atmospheric section which is carried by clean, quiet guitars and bass guitar, it not only changes up the flow of the record, but also creates an image quite similar to what can be found on the lonely, mysterious feeling album cover. From there it morphs into the destructive tech death metal action which I have come to love in the recent months, but if any moment from Aeons Past stuck out in my mind, it would have been that one. The album's second track, Kronor VII is another track where Element stand out. At 5 minutes 11 seconds, it is the longest song which Aeons Past has to offer, but despite the longer length it still manages to maintain interest as the shorter songs. It features great transition between guitars and vocals (handled by Mason on this album), and is one of the heavier songs and features each of the band's members in top form.
Overall, Aeons Past is a very well crafted technical death metal record. Short yet enjoyable, it manages to display each musician's talent without sounding pretentious or over done. Element's debut offering, it offers tech death metal with a bit of a sci-fi twist with songs like Cursed Through Time, Aeons Past, and Ethnologic Cybernetics. As far as debut albums go, Aeons Past might not be the finest you'll ever hear, but it is still a fine slab of death metal anyway you put it. Definitely check this out if you can and keep an eye out for Element.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)