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Yet another landmark in the ever changing landscape of technical death metal. To this day, it remains one of my all-time favourite genres and this album just reinforces that fact, along with many other classic albums out there, but that’s a story for another time. Sure, their debut was good in its own way no doubt, but it was after this album that Psycroptic truly became an entity unto themselves, stealing the limelight from other bands at the time.
The Haley brothers are just phenomenal musicians, most of all Joe Haley of course. It’s not instantly recognizable as his style alone, but then again he is the riff machine of the 21st century and if that isn’t apparent by the first song itself, you should probably get your ears checked. Some of his wicked technical licks and riffs are so complex and mind-blowing that you’ll be scratching your head for days, just trying to figure out how he did that. Like most good tech-death, the guitarwork truly steals the show on this album and between the razor sharp approach to songwriting and the riffs (trust me, there are a lot of them) the lack of solos is never an issue and on the contrary, quite a refreshing change. Check out “A Planetary Discipline”, “The Valley Of Winds Breath And Dragons Fire” and “Cruelty Incarnate” to hear some of the most frenzied riffs in tech-death that manage to carry the essence of songwriting while remaining viciously technical and blazingly fast at the same time, somehow remaining on the fringes of sanity.
That mad technical lick at 1:10 in “The Colour Of Sleep” will snake its way into your head in no time at all, while flailing your arms about desperately trying to headbang to the groove in vain and the descending intro riff of “Battling The Misery Of Organon” sounds like Death on steroids. Yep the music does take quite a bit of influence from Death but not to the extent of sounding like rip-offs. “The Scepter Of Ĵaar-Gilon” probably harkens back to the old-school death metal sound the most, sounding like Consuming Impulse era Pestilence in parts, slowly fading out with a blissful melodic outro.
“Psycrology” sounds almost like a lost Cryptopsy track from their masterpiece None So Vile, with the traditional Psycroptic twist and added melody to boot. Definitely one of the more aggressive and speedier tracks on the album. Old school tech-death fans who hate the new style and trend of tech-death post 2000, check out this sucker. “Skin Coffin” opens with some of the most frenzied drumwork on the album launching into one hell of a groovy death metal assault. If you’re on the fence about this band, check this song out and be converted.
A special mention needs to be made about the vocals. While I normally would really care much for the vocals in a genre like tech-death however, in the case of this album I’d have to make an exception. Matthew Chalk (who unfortunately left the band after this particular album) is one beast of a vocalist excelling in all three styles - a hardcore bark/yell, death metal growls and black metal shrieks. He even switches between all of them within the span of a single song which is quite a marvel. Why he left the band is beyond me.
Most of all, Psycroptic have managed to bridge the vast gap between relentless technicality and songcraft perfection which at the end of the day, is what most of the tech-death classics are all about. The lead licks are almost just as memorable as the riffs themselves, which is definitely not something that I can say for a vast majority of metal albums out there. Even if you aren’t a fan of the genre, I would still highly suggest that you give it a listen. You might just end up liking it. That last sentences is mainly for all the musicians out there, especially guitarists. For tech-death fans/enthusiasts, you already know the drill.
I believe this album was originally released on Psycroptic's own label, the imprint under which they issued their debut as well, but at this point I can not be sure. In any case this album is a little dated at this point being recorded in ten days from September to December of 2002, and I'm sure that Psycroptic, if they're the kind of band who like to rehearse and progress [and I'm guessing they are], are far beyond this material already. Still, it doesn't mean one shouldn't seek this album out and at least listen to it. It of course stands on its own as a complete, legitimate, worthwhile work of art.
Plus people are talking about it, so...
Psycroptic are somewhat out of the ordinary in that they employ an original take on the stylistic links between thrash and death metal. The exact nexus at which those two styles meet, divide, interrelate, etc. [even considered historically - at what? 1988 or so?] is the realm of inspiration which this band seems to want to explore, albeit it is in a highly idiosyncratic manner. Think Metallica's "And Justice For All" or Confessor's "Condemned" meeting with a brutal death album that had been launched ten years into the past with a time machine. That's a start. They have a voice/sound of their own, at this early point in their career, and what is even more noteworthy is that almost all of this "originality" seems to firmly reside within the riffing style of their guitarist, Joe Haley. Some instrumentalists just develop their own way of playing when faced with a certain set of influences [based on what only they could tell, outside of talent, drive, will, etc.] and he is one of them. Once you hear this band and get their style firmly embedded in your head you won't mistake them for any other band. Of course the other group members bring just as much to the table as Joe does [well I'm guessing the bassist does, because I can't really hear his contributions to this work], but it is his understanding of late thrash and how it interacts with death metal paradigms that really informs and fills out the lion's share of their distinctive techniques. For example, his brother David is a great drummer and really adds an immense rhythmic dexterity and creativity to this band's sound, a layer of their approach that would be sorely missed if he were to be absent. His interaction with his brother, the way they have designed the riffs, the way both the drums and rhythm guitars strike in unison, withdraw, comment on each other, etc. is the engine that drives Psycroptic forward. And yet his brother, without the guitars, would not be Psycroptic. This is obvious, however, and I am wasting your time in saying so.
Joe Haley is a guitar player that you will probably be hearing a lot more about in the future. I am just guessing that based on the impressive material here, having not heard this band's debut [and so being unable to track this band's progression], and knowing how the metal scene interacts with original six-string artists. His ingenuity, adroitness, nimbleness, and sheer rhythmic skill is a wonder to behold, and the guitar playing alone on this album should be a treat for anyone who appreciates idiosyncratic, thoughtful takes on genre rules/laws. His methodology is simple, yet bewitching: a very deliberate, careful, minute appreciation of rhythmic subtlety and the ways in which riffs can be altered, spun out, shortened, repeated, varied, etc. in the process of a song, and the way in which they can be offered, retracted, altered, and made to bear the burden of a guitarist's individual style while still carrying a song forward. Much like the school of guitar playing that descended from the first few Van Halen albums, this approach does not press for a deliberate execution and exact repetition of song cells/riffs/rhythms so much as it calls for the guitarist to constantly be searching for subtle ways in which to change each repetition of the motif elements. A riff will not be just repeated ad infinitum, a rhythm will not appear and then pop up again only to be some kind of structural sign within a composition; everything is constantly in flux and feels "alive" in that each time a musical element is cycled through [real] time and the band concentrates on it the guitarist is trying to change it while it is being played. It's almost as if the guitarist is "attacking" the rest of the band, daring it to repeat what he has just offered - but this illusion is ameliorated by the dry precision with which the drummer is shadowing the string rhythms. It's not correct to say that Psycroptic never plays the same riff twice [that's just a cliché, a commonplace], because they do, but I feel sometimes when I'm listening to this album that they do so only in order to make a sort of sarcastic bow to songwriting tradition - or in order to offer signposts to the listener so that he/she does not feel completely overwhelmed by music that sometimes seems to lack a simple structure [at least upon the first few listenings]. Where will they go in the future? What makes this all the more unique is the fact that they are using thrash riffing, intensive, short, sharp percussive, palm muted elements [but not in a Meshuggah sense, different] to create these free-flowing forms. It only gets "worse" as the album progresses. For example, consult the song "The valley of winds breath and dragons fire", the seventh on this nine track album, for an instrumental dissertation on the art of making songs that offer the listener very few concessions as to structural cohesiveness/simple integrity. The catchiest, "simplest" songs are at the beginning of this record, it opens up and seems to breathe as it advances, but it also loses cohesion... it loosens...
I also feel like I should at least mention the performance the vocalist Matthew Chalk displays here, although I am not qualified in any way to comment in depth on the permutations and complications of his delivery. It is original, let me say that, and Psycroptic did a good job of finding a vocalist that had a voice that was at least as distinctive and idiosyncratic as the guitarist's advances. Matthew mixes a sort of midrange scream and crawling growl with deeper, darker grunts, choking sounds, high squeals, a black metal shriek, and even a type of hoarse hardcore shout in order to get his point across, sounding like at least three different vocalists within the space of a few seconds. Very strange, but very nicely done. I do not know if he wrote the lyrics, but they are extensive, convoluted, and [seemingly] almost too much to handle sometimes as he races the other members of the band to the finish of each track...yet he still manages to send his voice through all the different pitches and ranges that he can manage. I wonder how much practice that took in rehearsal before the recording of this album, and what his throat feels like after they play all of these songs back to back, if they ever do. I would like to see this band live.
I admire Psycroptic's technical ability, I admire the talent on display here, and I especially the admire the amount of work that obviously went into the crafting of this material. I can not say I especially enjoy their riff-based approach to songwriting because I usually look for more of a two-guitar interplay/overlay or atmospheric "feeling" in the metal I listen to by choice [when I'm not reviewing], but that's just my personal bias. I was never into one-guitar bands and I probably never will be. That doesn't stop me from appreciating what Psycroptic are trying to do here, though. They mainly "succeed", in my opinion, when they stick to the basics of their style and do not try to compose over-long, especially complex [in terms of overall structure] material. Take the first four songs on this album, for example... I think they "succeed" because they are self-enclosed, coherent, expressive creations that have something to say and which follow definite patterns and traditional [if warped] songwriting forms. On the later tracks Psycroptic sometimes feel unfocused [almost as if they really didn't know where to take the song] and a little "exhausted" and I don't know if that comes from the way the material is structured or what happened in the studio, etc. The first few songs here just feel fresh and sound tightly coiled, immensely focused. They sound like they were worked over and calculated through a number of times, measured, refined and processed until they weren't holding anything much more than what their [first] basic design called for. Lean and mean, the way I think this band sounds best.
That's just my opinion, though. For all I know you would really like the last few songs on this album and think they are the best this band has to offer. In any case, this is another good album from Unique Leader, another worthy addition to one's collection as death metal is slowly beginning to pick up momentum in its "return to form".
This is one of the few technical death albums which wreaks of utmost brilliance, sincerity and ingenuity from almost every perspective. Rarely, if ever, do I actually come across an entire technical album which has genuine songwriting and innovative capacity without falling into tedious and exhaustive showmanship. "Scepter of The Ancients" is perhaps one of the most unique albums I have ever heard in my 10+ years listening to death metal. They have never actually been able to write another album even closely innovative and brilliant as this, which is no surprise - these guys peaked kind of early.
The most outstanding attribute of this album are the vocals, perhaps one of the most widely talked about and unique singing you'll hear. More or less, Chalky incorporates an array of different elements into his singing, everything from coarse, screams to brutish grunts. Not to mention, he changes his voice which such frequency it complements the hectic, insanely difficult aspects of the guitar. Unfortunately, for some bizarre reason, Chalky departed the band after this record, and the band haven't released anything as remotely unique ever since, mainly because their current vocalist is well, some mediocre douche bag.
However, the thing that makes this album most unique is how the music accommodates the singing. The guitar work, although lacking in solos, has some of the most technical riffing you'll ever hear on a death metal record. Haley is full of some of the weirdest palm mute picking, a lot of hybrid picking and a lot of exceptional legato. I was always under the assumption that the rhythm guitar can only be so technical before it disintegrates into random noise, but with the write production, technique and musicianship, Psycroptic make it work beautifully. Another assumption I always had is quite simple, almost algorithmic: If a death metal band has no solos, they are fucking trash because rhythm can never be that interesting. I was very wrong.
It is true that not all the riffs are catchy, and you have about 10 - 15 riffs per track, some of which are played once for a dozen seconds before Haley starts playing something else - but there is a point to be made. In modern death metal, the goal is to put in as many riffs as possible to make it as psychotic as possible, but too often bands have lost the plot of writing actual music. Psycroptic however know how to link their riffs up elegantly, and the transitions they make, collectively, means that it never sounds like the music is incomprehensible or worse still, unmusical. On the contrary, Haley's unbelievably dextrous playing serves a template which accommodates the drums and vocals. There are a few memorable riffs here, including "Lacertine Forest", "Cruelty Incarnate", "The Colour of Sleep" and "Skin Coffin" are unbelievably catchy at some points, but if you're for a band with catchy riffs, you're much better off listening to another band.
Additionally, the drumming is profoundly good here, and it helps that Dave is Joe's brother, because their complementarity is unbelievably good. Besides being some of the best recording you'll hear on a death metal album (the double bass sounds like a bass drum and not some triggered nonsense), it is extremely refined. Dave is a remarkably good death metal drummer, and his drumming fits the band perfectly; its fast, a lot of blast beats and some creative grooves here and there - he never drowns the band like many other top death metal drummers manage to do on an annual basis, but goes with it, never surfacing until absolutely necessary.
The only negative this album has is that the bass is almost nonexistent, the drums, vocals and guitars make it almost impossible to hear any bass playing whatsoever. Yes, conventionally this was never a prerequisite for a class album, but if you're trying to make the perfect album it is imperative that all the musicians are represented at least somewhat equally. This in my opinion was the only drawback on this insanely unique album.
So in summary, this is a band which used to release some of the best death metal on the planet - they're by no means a bad band now, but just nothing too unique. "The Sceptor of The Ancients" is one of the best death metal albums in history simply because it is the perfect mix of raw insanity and refined musicianship that is very difficult to find in any modern death metal band. Anyone who wants to listen to something truly unique and interesting is very much obliged to check this album out, its their best and they'll never release anything like it again.
No, really, think about how that would sound.
Tons upon tons of killer riffs, oddball vocals that lound like non-other, creepy storytelling instead of lyrics, etc. Basically, Psycroptic's "The Scepter of the Ancients" is all that but under a death metal format. Instead of King Diamond's trademark falsetto and black metal shreiks, these vocals are mostly growls, with screams, goregrind gurgles/squeals, and hardcore vocals popping up at random times from Chalky. It sounds very weird, but as an avid Lord Worm fan I can appreciate these vocals. I've got to say though, he never shuts his mouth like Lord Worm does. His vocals are cool, but there are so many lyrics to this album that only a handful of the riffs don't have his vocals all over them.
The guitarwork is where this album excels. This guy can write some killer riffs, no doubt, without necessarily having to show off his massive technical abilities by inserting random sweeps in the songs like Brain Drill does. In addition to his awesome riffs, they are always very memorable and very fast and technical. A good example of this would be in "the Colour of Sleep" (which is basically these guy's trademark song). I'd guess Chuck Schuldiner was probably this guy's biggest influence, as many songs ("Cruelty Incarnate") seem to almost tip a hat to him, what with the technical/melodic leads popping up here and there. I can appreciate this, as Death is by far my favourite death metal band, and these guys do a very good job at modernizing "Individual Thought Patterns" era Death by fusing it with "Winds of Creation" era Decapitated. Very interesting indeed.
The lyrics are an enigma here. Each song basically tells a weird, demented story. For instance, "Cruelty Incarnate", is basically about a king who, once every night, takes two people up to his castle and tortures them for his pleasure. We also have "Planetary Discipline" which is a song about how there is an emperor in the sun who "leases" the planets to different species if they have something to offer them, claiming that our medicine has prolonged our life on this earth. The creepiest song on here, however, is "Skin Coffin", which is about a man who fears death, so he finds a new god, who tells him to skin humans alive and make a coffin out of their skin, and when he is near death he will crawl inside the coffin and be reborn - in skin. Interesting, but not quite up to par with Lord Worm or J.R. Hayes.
The production job is pretty rough, but it's fairly easy to distinguish the instruments (with the exclusion of bass guitar, which is very quiet). It's nothing really notable, unfortunatly.
So there you have it, Psycroptic's "the Scepter of the Ancients". This is a really good album to check out especially if you're into Cryptopsy or King Diamond. I'm sure everyone will have something to like in this.
When I first heard this album in all its worshipped glory I hated it, not disliked it, and not just thought it was overrated, but I hated it with a passion that burned hotter than a thousand suns. Scepter of the Ancients is on the surface a perfect demonstration of what modern technical death metal is and why it sucks, not in the Necrophagist/Spawn of Possession weak meedly style, but in the ultra-flat sterile stop-start style of Decapitated’s Nihilist and all its clones. The album shot forth an endless stream of mindless scatter-brained technical riffs with no purpose besides being hard to play, and was full of songs which run for far too long considering that there's no structuring to make these songs into, you know, songs. There was a vocalist that spews vocals in an irritating style which isn't quite a death growl and doesn't shut up for a second over music which, while full of fast drums and low vocals really has very little in common with death metal, all displayed in a flat, gutless production sound that totally castrates the metal on offer. But nay, after a few weeks of constant listening, I learned there are some riffs in this sterile characterless mass, and they're pretty badass.
Don't get me wrong, my initial thoughts are still dead on, it's a pathetic monument to everything which sucks about popular death metal these days, but I'll be damned if this meager band isn’t secretly hiding some big wrought iron balls under its skirt of trendy bullshit.
Scepter of the Ancients is typically laden with stop start riffs, those choppy horrid little bursts of a few randomly picked notes which everyone loves these days, and terrible midpaced groove riffs which sound more like Lamb of God than early Cryptopsy or Suffocation. All of this is of course neutered by the standard flat and clean guitar sound that all of the bands of this type use. But it also turns out that almost every song has a few riffs that sound like an updated Cryptopsy or early Gorguts riff, not many mind you, but a few exist, there are usually one or two in each of the songs. These riffs almost make this album worthwhile and are truly great, and should make any fan of old school tech death disenfranchised with the new rubbish momentarily smile ear to ear with a joy they haven't felt since the turn of the century. Oddly enough, fan favourite Skin Coffin doesn't have any, which is nothing but insubstantial riffs from start to finish, which to me says something about the fans and what they look for.
Sadly, all of this is hindered if not totally ruined by the haphazard way these tracks are thrown together, as with all bands of this style, Psycroptic loathe musical flow and spend their whole time stopping and starting or speeding up and slowing down a bar or two of music every 10 seconds. It's a mess, without any of the careful touch of the bands of the 90's.
Next up on the list of things in a death metaller’s wet dream that this band possesses is a book worth of good lyrics, the common insanity/perversion themes are there, but are accompanied by fantasy and political and sociological lyrics, and they're all extremely in depth. This band easily tops the often simple gore themes of their contemporaries, and offers some of the most well thought out and thoroughly explored lyrics you'll find anywhere.
Of course there's a down side, and it’s that these songs have more words in them than this review. While this stuff may be some of the most thorough lyrics ever written, this isn't because of an amazing level of skill with the English language, it's because Matt Chalk writes about ninety five thousand words per song, and the result is vocals that keep going for the entirety of 6 minute songs and Never. Ever. Stop. Sure Chalky may try to keep thing interesting trying literally every noise humanly possible, but sadly he sucks at every single one. His growls are feeble and still a little screamy, honestly, he's not that different to the new guy, and his deeper gutturals are gurgled and well, deathcore-y. His rasps are disgusting little voice cracks rivalled in aggression by the final croaks of a dying toad. Typically, every style he tries comes of as both inadequate in skill and unpleasant to listen to. He's like a pre-puberty Lord Worm.
The final plus is the drumming, which admittedly sounds awful. Indeed Dave Haley loves the clicky sound of a fully triggered drumset, and yes, he does use the lamest of all blasts, the gravity blast on occasion, but other than that his performance is a breath of fresh air. He doesn't blast much, sure his clicky double bass is constant and super fast, but he tends to play regular non-blast rhythms. There's not much in the way of fills, or really mind blowing techniques or speed, but it's a nice change of pace from the none stop blasting employed by so many newer bands.
Psycroptic are a band who in fact has a lot of elements from the days of good tech death, and a great deal of ones from all the new wanky crap. It has much of both of these worlds, but they've clearly decided to focus on the modern route. They are much like a technical death metal hermaphrodite if you will. There’s no hiding that they've decided to dress up in the attractive feminine attire of sterile stop-start boredom, and they make a pretty convincing woman, but if you look beneath the oddly bulging panties you'll fine some balls made of quality death metal riffery, intelligent drumming, and true death metal attitude, they're just hidden away.
So does this mean this album is good? No, not even close, because while there is some badassery underneath all of the tepid modern traits, it's still just a badass wearing a dress.
Technical death metal is a hit or miss type thing for me, and there are a lot of bands that bore me in this type of genre. Technicality for technicality's sake has never been something I condone, and this band is certainly a proprietor of that sort of thing. Psycroptic is in fact the first death metal band I ever heard, before I even really knew anything about the genre. I remember being blown away by the vicious technicality of "The Colour of Sleep" in my young naivete, just appreciating the savage brutality of the whole thing. Fast forward a few years, and here I am, listening to the whole CD that began with that very song. While I find this band overrated, I still can't pretend that I think they're bad at all, for this certainly has it's merits.
Psycroptic is a Tasmanian band, and they're very well known in tech death circles, from what I understand. There are 9 songs here, each of a fairly moderate length, with short, choppy, technical riffs, jagged basslines, and brutal, skull-hammering drum beats, all layered with the psychotic shrieks and grunts of perhaps one of the best death growlers around, Matthew Chalk (who, sadly, is no longer part of the band as of 2005). The man is absolutely amazing, switching from a deep death grunt, to an almost black-metallish screech, and then to a rather guttural bellow, usually all in the same song. The production is good, and I don't think the band would work well with any other sound here. This kind of production is pretty standard for technical death metal, I find, a tad bit hollow, but overall very heavy and clear. The band is obviously very technically proficient, reminding one of early Cryptopsy in many regards, and they intend to let you know that with every single bit of music on this entire disc. This isn't the type of thing that you tap your foot to, nor is it really headbangable or catchy. It's just very polished, brutal, and well played technical death metal that goes for the throat.
Going over individual songs here is rather pointless, since they're all kind of alike in the grand scheme of things. I must single out the opener "The Colour of Sleep" as a good song, very typical for the band, and a fine start to the CD, showing you exactly what you're about to get for the next 40 minutes of brutality. The back-to-back duo of "Psycrology" and "Skin Coffin" are two more of my preferred songs here, both being energetic exercises in demonic technical wizardry. The former starts off with some rather soothing acoustic guitar before it starts to bash your head in with those pounding drum beats, and the latter has an evil groove that just works, along with some of Chalk's sickest vocals yet. "The Valley of Wind's Breath and Dragon's Fire" is another spectacular cut with crushing rhythms and absolutely insane vocal work (perhaps the best example of Chalk's prowess on this entire disc). And the rest of the songs here are equally good, albeit not up to the level of the aforementioned song. "The Scepter of Jaar-Gilon" perhaps goes on a bit too long, but it's an ambitious closer and a fine end to a very well done album.
For technical deathheads, this is the shit, and I'm sure most of you will find plenty to enjoy here, if you haven't already dug into the colorful banquet of sound on display here. While Psycroptic's music may be almost entirely devoid of emotion or soul, it certainly makes up for that with a cornucopia of death metal mastery that doesn't disappoint. This is stuff you listen to when you want to be inspired to write music, and the stuff you listen to when you're in the mood for impressive musicianship, and so it succeeds in what it's attempting to do. Recommended to fans of this kind of thing.
I could write for hours and hours about how this band is marvellous, genuine, innovative and fucking great. And instead of doing so, I will give those who still haven't listened to this killer release an insight what this band actually represents on todays (modern) Death Metal scene. Psycroptic come from a part of the world, that was unknown for perfect Brutal Technical (percussive) Death Metal, crazy drumming, wicked vocals and guitars simply unbelievable - fucking Tasmania. But thanks to those sickos and Unique Leader signing them and releasing 'The Scepter Of The Ancients' in 2002, this part of the world in now known for some of the most insane Death Metal in the last decade. And they sound quite as much insane and wicked as the Tasmanian devil.
As their first release was a good Technical Death Metal album, with progression towards the brutal and really fresh sounding, in the sea of amorph sounding bands, all copying the same bands and the same styles, not giving a fudge about being capable of so much more, 'The Scepter of the Ancients' is something that made this band even greater and stick out from the sea of new bands with brutal and technical releases. Thos who haven't still listened to this, better get your ass moving to get hold of this, 'cause you will be listening to this for a month, trying to understand how they do that, how that are capable of playing this sick kind of music. It's simply fast, unpredictable breaks and arrangements hit you, vocals that jump from deep gutturals to high peaks and back to low barking, drums that are...David Haley is no human, because no human can play rolls and blast beats like that, and hit the double bass with such ease and furious speed, that the triggers will start using him, instead of him using them. He is the incarnated brutal and hyperfast drumming. He also did the drums on Aborted's new release, so you can expect that one to be a killer release too.
And this release has got the "special" grooviness, being tight and still having space to groove like no Sludge or Hardcore band could ever groove. When I first heard "The Colour of Sleep" opening the release, it was just a mass of blast beats shooting at me, and then those insane vocals, and breaks...it was just incredibly blasting, and I was perplexed for quite a few minutes by the tempo of this band and their endurance. And the variety in Matthew Chalk's vocals - never heard any other Death Metal vocalist like him before. It will just make you ask for more. The guitar and the bass on this release are overwhelming with their sound. As much as Spawn Of Possession is virtuouse, complex and technical in their songs, Psycroptic is just magnificent; although being virtuouse and tech as shit, they never lose themselves in litanies of chords and breaks. They play with such a calm and ease, it's almost frightening. You can find catchy songs in this release, many of them. Actually, their all catchy, and stand each for another way of making you schizofrenic in the head.
This is a perfect release, in any way, be it the vocals full of variety, drums that make even Pete Sandoval sound like a amateur, guitars/bass that just burst with ideas, that you never heard before, except on the previous release of Psycroptic, or the whole release. You cannot find any flaws in it, no matter how hard you try to find them. Songs like "Lacertine Forest", "Psycrology", "Skin Coffin", "Cruelty Incarnate", "A Planetary Discipline" and "The Scepter of Jaar-Gilon" are what makes this band stand higher than 90% of all Death Metal bands, and the other songs are killer in the same vein. You just can not like this release, you gotta love it and every song on it. It's better than perfect - it's Psyroptic.
Who would of know, but Australia has a bunch of good metal bands such as Astriaal, Fuck... I'm Dead and Psycroptic. The Aussies sure know their metal.
Psycroptic are a huge breath of fresh air into the current stagnant death metal scene. Not one note off time and the guitars ride PERFECTLY over the double bass drumming.
Never before, have I heard a band with a vocalist as versatile as this. From the low end guttural growls and Grindcore shrieks with mid range, aggressive and thrashy influences and sections, this vocalist can do it all. It is very rare for a Death Metal band to find a vocalist as emotively convincing in the delivery of the lyrics His vocals blend perfectly with the insane riffs on this albums, one of the first times I have vocals used as a primary instrument. It's a shame he is no longer with the band, because he is probably one of my favorite vocalists ever. Plus most of the time you can understand him perfectly, with the exception of the ultra guttural parts, that don't even sound human.
Next up is the already mentioned guitar. The riffs flow so fucking well, and are amazingly technical. There aren't any solos on this, but it doesn't matter, the riffs are nearly solos. There is only one guitarist, but you don't even notice, since he is all over the place. The tempo changing and start-stop riffing gives this band another unique feel.
The basswork is rather well, and fits perfectly. Hell in the live videos, his fingers are all over the fretboard, he knows what he is doing. It's a shame the bass is rather low in the mix, but doesn't taint this expierence.
Another pinacle of this album is the drumming. One of the best drummers I have heard in my life, he doesn't stop. His beats fit the music so well, his feet are amazingly fast, and his blasts are near perfect. This guy is a fucking beast, and he even could pull it off live. The drums accent the vocals perfectly, their speed combines with the current style of vocals to give this band such a unique feel.
My personal favorite tracks of this album are Skin Coffin, The valley of winds breath and dragons fire(which in it's last minute of so has the most unique vocal preformance I have ever heard in my life) and Lacertine Forest
This album is easily one of the best albums of 2003, and one of my favorite Death Metal releases ever.
This is Psycroptic's second album. Their first album, The Isle of Disenchantment, was awesome and it was wondered upon if Psycroptic could better their efforts and release an album with perfect production and awesome riffage and drumming.
They did that and so much more.
Psycroptic have been a rising name in the Death Metal world for quite some time now, embarking on European Tours and the like. Most fans always request songs from this album because its so fucking good and when you hear a particular riff play you can't help but bang your fucking head up and down and side to side, even if you are by yourself!!!!
Now onto specific parts of the album. The drumming is absolutely insane. Watching these guys live, you just know what part is coming up next and you can't help but scream FUCK YEAH as loud as you can. The drumming on all tracks are extremely tight and I credit Dave Haley as one of the best drummers in Death Metal. He can hit the double bass like it was a daily routine, and with so much easiness!!! Dave Haley can definately use his kit to all types of rolls and blastbeats ahoy.
Joe Haley is on guitars (Yes they are brothers) and he rips a fucking shred into your ears. The riffs on this album are absolutely incredible (especially those on Skin Coffin, Cruelty Incarnate and The Scepter Of Jaar-Gilon) and he can play at blinding speeds. He seems to have new ideas every song and uses his playing capability to an extent i haven't heard before. Although there is a lack of solo's on this album he makes up for it by producing bone-crushing riffs in every single song.
Matthew 'Chalky' Chalk is up on vocals and i haven't heard another like him. He can go from low, guttural growls to high piched shrieks in a split second. The vocals seem to go on forever aswell, which isn't a bad thing, but sometime the music isn't as complimented as much as i'd like it to be. But no points taken off as im quite happy with the vocals. Matthew Chalk is one of my favourite vocalists just because of his range.
Cameron Grant is on Bass, and even though it isn't that audible you can imagine the versatility of his playing on bass. I have seen him live and i can say he rips it up on the bass.
So onto the music when it is all put together. The drums compliment the guitars as they play at the same speed throughout most songs. The vocals are very good and they are usually all over the place (which in this case is a good thing). When you actually hear the songs you can' help but listen closely and be in awe at how good it sounds. Did i mention there just as good live!!! A well deserved 100, Psycroptic.
Standout Tracks: The Colour Of Sleep, Lacertine Forest, Skin Coffin, Cruelty Incarnate, The Scepter Of Jaar-Gilon
The Tasmanian death metal band Psycroptic comes together for another studio album. Their sophomore effort is slightly better than the debut album. The vocals remain the same. Chalky sounds pretty much the same on this. He uses variations of vocals on this album. Yes, it is correct that he can do it all vocally. It's too bad that this would be the last album to feature this incredibly talented vocalist.
The drumming is mostly technical on The Scepter of the Ancients. The drums are a very important component on this album. It is mixed in very well with the chaos. Everything from the double bass to the extreme cymbals are in place. The drums are the highlight on this. I cannot stress how great David Haley. He deserves more recognition for his drum work! He may not be Flo Mounier, but he gets the job done.
The bass is my favorite aspect of Psycroptic. I usually don't like or notice the bass in many death metal bands. The Scepter of Jaar-Gilon has that booming bass. Skin Coffin, Psycrology and the last song have it as well. Cruelty Incarnate needs more of that booming bass. The Colour of Sleep has some pretty awesome bass work. As for the other songs, they have nice and complex guitar riffs too. No guitar solos though, but I don't care for that There are a few times where one of the guitarists uses pinch harmonics though. There was a lack of that on the debut album. It just adds more flavor to the madness.
This album is more essential than the debut. Fans of Spawn of Possession and countless of other technical death metal bands may love this album. I highly recommend this everyone who likes death metal. You must get this album! If you call yourself a death meal fan, go out and get this album now!
The Scepter of the Ancients is a brilliant second album from Psycroptic. Psycroptic makes death metal that is not only technical, but also very melodic. They don't sound like your typical Unique Leader band.
The riffs are what make this album so good to me. They are so catchy, but the arrangements are very complex. They never stay on a riff very long and it helps keep everything fresh. They don't have any solos. Despite that, the guitar work is excellent. Joe Haley really knows what he is doing. The opening riffs to "Cruelty Incarnate" and "Battling The Misery Of Organon" are extremely good.
The drummer is excellent. He really compliments the music well. He doesn't rely just on blast beats and knows when to slow down. The double-kick display on this album is really impressivek, too. David Haley is as good with Psycroptic as he is with The Amenta.
I have some problems with the vocals. They are always some going on. He never stops to let the music become the main focus. One good thing about them is the variety. The vocals range from growls to yells, grunts and screams.
Overall this is a great album. I would recommend it to anybody that wants some fresh death metal or anyone that loves technical death.
The first thing I want to say about this release is that, simply, it is flawless.
As far as death metal is concerned, The Scepter of the Ancients is brutal in it's complexity and aggressiveness, technical in its musicianship, and yet irresistably catchy and memorable. The only thing standing against it is innovation; despite the intuition that this *must* be one of the greatest death metal albums ever released, it doesn't really push the boundaries in any particular direction other than that of 'how much can one truly love a death metal album against their will?'. If this release somehow advanced the creative envelope of the genre, it would probably be the greatest album of said genre. As it stands however, it is simply technical brutal death metal with the most jaw-dropping riffs, drumming, vocals, composition, melodies and production that ever were referenced under that label. Bands like Spawn of Possession may be more technical, Necrophagist may have the solos that carve themselves into memory, Gorguts may have the lyrics you can actually think about, but no band that can call themselves brutal and technical can call themselves as effortlessly catchy and endearingly memorable as Psycroptic. Along with Obscura, Onset of Putrefaction and other such timeless albums, The Scepter of the Ancients truly belongs. Get it now.
Before listening to this album (or its predicessor), I stumbled across a biography of Psycroptic. These guys were born in raised in Tasmania and thus were out of touch with the metal scene for most of their lives. They sounded like genuine musicians looking for their big break. Well, that biography was obviously overrated as this band is now a dominating name in the land downunder.
When I first put this album on, I was blown away. I guess the best way is to break it down into its components:
Production: flawness. Simply crystal clear. In contrast with some deal metal fans who feel that a lesser production yields a more brutal sound, I like my death metal to sound good and clean.
Vocals: This guy can do a lot. He moves from a deep growl to a high pitched rasp and vice versa practically every five seconds. I especially like the higher vocals as paired with the drumming, which is insanely technical, establish a good groove.
Drums: If there's anything that draws me to death metal most it is the drumming. Scepter of the Ancients has some of the most technical insane drumming known to mankind. This guy's talented, folks. Double-bass isn't a luxary with this band - it's the norm. And it's really fast. At times so fast that you can barely tell that there are, in fact, seperate strikes. And just when the drumming sounds too perfect and like it is being done by a crazied robot, there are some "raw" sounding drums thrown in (I'm not a drummer, so I don't know much termenology).
Guitar/Bass: Guitar and bass are constant on this album, although somewhat supressed. The only thing seperating this album and a 100% is the lack of soloing. And i'm not even sure they could solo and still keep within their style. Possibly throw in a few instrumental sections, guys?
I'd definately reccomend this one to anyone into thrash, death, or black metal. I'm anxiously awaiting any new matertial from these guys. If they continue to improve, they just might become death metal gods.
Upon first listen, this album completely stunned me. I’ve not heard a death metal vocalist with as much variety as this in a long time. Matthew Chalk will be singing in a low and guttural growl, then all of the sudden go into a high pitched shriek, then go into a mid toned belch! Am I reading the booklet right when it says it’s just one guy singing, and it’s not really someone else doing backing vocals to achieve such diverse tones? Apparently I read correctly - Matthew Chalk CAN do it all!
What we have here is some highly technical death metal in vein of bands like Spawn of Possession and Visceral Bleeding (but not quite there yet) with some slight thrash roots. There’s a constant death fest of blistering melodies, fervent double bass with steady snare and intense cymbal work, stark harmonization and variety in song structure to boot. None of the songs sound the same, which is something that a lot of death metal lacks these days. Each song is like a 100mph train crash without any kind of safety restrictions - pure madness and head spinning experience, and when you switch tracks it‘s an entirely new ride. I can’t find a lot wrong with the music over all, with the exception of a few things.
The guitars sound like they should be louder, especially the bass. Nothing really dominates the mix, it’s actually mixed very well, but I can’t help but feel as if the guitars could be pushing the envelope more to make people feel like they‘ve just been pushed into a corner and are forced to cry themselves to sleep. I’ve always been a fan of bass guitars, and in this case it can be arduous to hear. I want the bass to be heard more clearly in more of the, so it can give it the deeper and darker feel to the overall sound. The bass kicks my ass in “The Scepter of Jaar Gilon” as if it were telling me “when Psycroptic play; you shut up and listen”.
What more could you want from death metal? You’ve got a versatile vocalist, speed, technicality, melody, and heaviness. Hmm, I’d say this album just about covers everything you could wish for. More than a worthy purchase.
The Scepter Of The Ancients is what death metal should sound like. The guitar riffs are incredibly fast and not overly distorted into shit; they retain a thrashy bite not unlike that of newer Death. The drumming is fast and technical, but not too high in the mix. And Matthew Chalk's vocals are fucking sick; this guy screams, growls, shrieks, belches, barks - he does everything that fits into extreme metal. I'd say he's even better than Lord Worm.
Unlike a lot of technical bands, these guys have a lot of variety and catchiness thrown in; the songs not only impress you with technicality and speed, but they get stuck in your head like a power metal song would.
The lyrics are interesting, deep, well written, and varied.
This is a must have for fans of technical death metal. But if you're one of the people who can't stand Lord Worm from Cryptopsy, then the vocals here will probably bother you.
Yet another Unique Leader outfit, this time from Australia. Diverse, creative, technical, hyper-blasting and unique are such words that come to mind when I listen to Psycroptic’s recent release “The Scepter of the Ancients”. This band has really crept up from the land down under and has left me with complete shock. Personally I believe that Psycroptic have spawned their own genre of Death Metal.
There are all the elements that form one hell of a technical/brutal death metal band – but yet they make space for more. This band is real damn talented. The vocals are like anything I haven’t ever heard before – sometimes low grunts and at other times real high-pitched-fast-paced. The guitar work from Joe Haley is real impressive and the drummer nails it fuckin’ great. This band seems to input a lot of different ideas into their song writing.Both sound and production are of great quality - a lot of work has gone into the making of this album it seems. Shit… you just need to give these guys a listen and I encourage you all to fucking buy this album if you are into the style. It will broaden your horizons of Death Metal.