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Tasmania, home to the inbred fools that many Australians hold in contempt (it's comparable to how us Yankees hate the inbred southern states), and the Technical Death Metal group, Psycroptic. I'll admit, I haven't heard anything prior to this album, 2008's Ob(Servant), so I can't tell you if this is a step down or not. Their 2003 effort, Scepter of the Ancients, seems to be widely regarded as a masterpiece in the genre, and so that little tidbit was the only bit of information I had about the band when I saw Ob(Servant) at my local Best Buy. I looked at the cover and song titles, and made my deduction. I'm finding metal at Best Buy, this must mean it is rather clean on the production front, lest the mainstream outlets not carry it. The wacky song titles like "The Shifting Equilibrium" and "Removing the Common Bond" implied a similarity to Meshuggah in my eyes, as the lyrical themes of metaphysical nonsense seemed to apply heavily to both bands.
Thankfully, there isn't much about this that sounds anything like Meshuggah. The music consists of actual riffs here! The main issue is, on the other hand, that most of the content here amounts to little more than a faceless blur of blastbeats and pointless yelling. Let's get something straight, I love Death Metal, I love technicality in my music (although a lack of it won't make me complain at all), polished production doesn't bother me any more than crappy production, and I just overall enjoy aggressive, abrasive music. So don't interpret the previous statement as something a Dream Theater fan would use to criticize a band or anything. These guys can play their instruments quite proficiently, like most other metal musicians. And like most other metal musicians nowadays, they don't seem to use these talents to write good songs. Most tracks on Ob(Servant) blast their way through your speakers with minimal effort and maximal intensity, but none of it ever sticks with you. Music doesn't have to be catchy or hooky to be good, but there isn't much point in owning a disc that you'll only spin a few times per year. The worst part about the songs isn't the fact that they aren't memorable, but the fact that they're so fucking long for absolutely no goddamn reason. Many songs end with about a minute or two left in the track, and the space is filled with pointless ambience that adds nothing to the overall experience. All they do is break the flow of the album, and I don't see any point in their existence other than to prove to some unseen judge that believes metal is only truly great when it is diverse, that they can indeed do something other than thrash your face off.
Also, I don't know what the previous vocalist sounded like, but this new guy has a serious stiffy for Fear Factory/Meshuggah-type yelling. Not screaming, not growling, yelling. Frankly, it doesn't fit very well. I'm not a fan of the vocal style to begin with, but it sounds like shit when mixed with the top notch Tech Death that fills the background. So don't get me wrong, Ob(Servant) is a great Tech Death album plagued by bad vocals and bad songwriting. Give it a spin if you're a fan of the style, but don't be surprised if it underwhelms you at all.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com