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There are the Holy Three of technical/progressive death metal (Death, Pestilence, Atheist) and there is… Theory in Practice. Yes, I love this act almost as much as I love this holy triumvirate, if not even more. I am quite happy of the fact that this band became known to a lot of metalheads because of my persistent advertising campaign, some of them avid fans of the Swedish extraordinaires at present. On the other hand, I can’t conceal the other truth that there were those who never got into them, like this friend of mine who was quite annoyed to find out that in my death metal top 20 Theory in Practice were present with three albums (pretty much their whole discography) while Death and Atheist were featured with only one effort each. Well, this is what it is, and I have no remorse whatsoever for my predilections. And, judging by the glowing reviews the band’s works have received through the years, I clearly see that I’m by no means the only one who worships at the altar of Armageddon.
I was introduced to the band by an acquaintance of mine who recommended them to me knowing that I really liked Nocturnus’ “The Key”, and according to him Theory in Practice’s style resembled the American’s debut quite a bit. He even labelled them as “copycats”, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that the guy was quite mistaken. The first two tracks into the Swedes’ debut, and one knows that what he/she has here is true auteurs who are going to leave a memorable trace on the scene regardless of how long they will last. The similarities with Nocturnus are here, no question about that, but they are mostly in the evocation of ethereal cosmic atmosphere, but not really in the execution. Theory in Practice are more complex and more technical without adhering to the classical virtuosity exhibited by their American peers. Besides, Nocturnus only came out with all the guns blazing once, on the debut; the sweeping musical decisions were substantially diminished on the follow-up, not to mention their complete disappearance on the shaky “Ethereal Womb”. All the three albums of the Swedes team with ideas and talent racing each other as to which one would be more engaging and more intricate. Natural progression can be easily detected from one opus to another both in terms of song-structures and riff-patterns making one’s task really hard in deciding which one could be viewed as the band’s finest hour.
I can easily write a thesis on each of the three albums, but I picked the sophomore saga since this was the first one I got on an original CD. Besides, “The Armageddon Theories”, as the mediator in the band’s discography, contains all the elements which makes the guys’ music such a compulsive listen. It also sounds different from its predecessor which contains a bigger number of less intense, not as fast-paced tracks and more sterile, more modern production. On the new Theories the delights are simply endless: the opening “Dehumanized” bursts immediately, without any warning into an operatic cannonade which is quickly replaced by an entangled ball of schizoid technical riffage, and the riff salad which follows can only be matched by the one on “Unquestionable Presence” only that the Swedes’ sudden lead-driven digressions are nowhere to be found on the Atheist’s works (although they were quite prominent on “The Key”). “The Visionaire (Angelic Possession)” begins with a dirgy chug-fest, but an outbreak of sinister creepy riffs follows suit before orchestral semi-blast beats enter the scene to bring the winds of black metal for a bit; not for long since another vortex of highly-stylized technical guitars invades the listener’s aura followed by a short piano-driven interlude, and a serpentine thrashing Coroner-esque passage.
Things can’t possibly get any more eventful than that, but the title-track (preceded by a short orchestral intro) marches forward with fast crisp riffs the latter easily reaching headbanging proportions with memories of both Death and Atheist although the surprises are bigger here again thanks to those inimitable, abrupt lead sections; watch out also for the excellent atmospheric balladic exit the leads creating a breath-taking symbiosis with the acoustic guitars. “Departure” is a labyrinthine technicaller the introductory riff-patterns another nod to Coroner, dramatic super-technical death/thrashing also leaving some room for the not very prominent bass to be heard; superb stuff with insane speedy shreds reaching classical virtuosity for once this hectic “symphony” getting a more sprawling progressive, keyboard-infused mid-section. “Embryo” carries on in the same vein sounding like a sequel to the preceding number with an increased presence of the great leads which duel with the keyboards later; the riffy arrangements are a tad more controlled on this one despite the crazy fast-paced moments near the end which eventually calm down for the final doom-laden section. “Posthuman Era” crushes and thrashes busily for a start its super-hectic character further aggravated by mazey technicality and some of the finest melodic lead escapades to ever grace a death metal album. The “posthumans” will also thoroughly enjoy the closing “Embodied for War”, a rousing technical masterpiece with the staple for the band immediate beginning the riff-fest culminating on the maddening complex riff-tapestry in the middle, the latter going on in the second half as well where one can get a headshake from the incessant time shifts.
This is a lesson very well given, with the “theory and practice” of technical/progressive death metal summed up within less than 40-min. The less patient and the busier may prefer “Unquestionable Presence” which is just under half an hour, but the less initiated and the more inquisitive will find more to learn here; seriously. And, if they liked what they learnt, here’s another suggestion for them to try out: the Austrian avant-gardists Korovakill’s debut “A Kiss in the Charnel Fields” is an enchanting blend of technical/progressive death, macabre gothic murkiness and weird black metal landscapes, evoking atmosphere quite close to the one on the Theory in Practice works. I try to use death metal acts as a reference point over and over although Coroner, already mentioned several times, seem to be a very close soundalike, too, especially the colossal “No More Color”. The sudden alternation between atmospherics and technical whirlwinds is very similar at times except that the Swiss maestros don’t blast their souls out which is often the case in the other camp. I’m pretty sure Theory may have branched out into a similar more abstract direction akin to the one Coroner took on “Grin”, also having in mind the guys’ not very frequent, but still present leanings towards the more sterile, mechanical guitar school (think their compatriots Meshuggah), mostly featured on the debut. And, please let’s not exclude a potential futuristic collaboration between Coroner’s Tommy Vetterli and Theory in Practice’s own Peter Sjoberg…
Mentioning Peter Sjoberg, the man is a guitar wizard, one of the finest musicians to ever grace the metal scene. His maddening shreds, atonal atmospherics and super-complex riff spirals are a wonder to listen to; one simply can’t get enough of them regardless of how abundantly provided they are. Some have blamed him for using this band (that is pretty much a “child” of his own) as a vehicle for his pyrotechnics, and that apart from his displaying his skills there’s very little else to savour from these three albums. This is quite untrue; one doesn’t need more than a few pieces in order to feel every other musician’s contribution: the operatic keyboards, the thundering drums, even the bass implements which are clearly less widely covered, but are by all means present. Certainly, Sjoberg is the star of the show, but the progressive and the technical death metal genres are the most guitar-driven ones on the field; very few death metal outfits have managed to pull it out without guitars (Neoandertals, anyone?).
Sjoberg kept himself relatively busy during the break he took from the Theory in Practice sessions, first with the release of one effort under the name Mutant (“The Aeonic Majesty”, 2001) with which he gave more freedom to explore his infatuation with the black metal genre indications of which were already heard sparsely on the works of his main band. This is still highly-technical music with death and black metal fighting for domination the whole time with sweeping technical riffs floating over this eventful, both surreal and operatic, saga. Then, to everyone’s utter delight, the man joined the newly reformed Mekong Delta! A “marriage” in heaven which produced the magnificent “Lurking Fear”, a progressive thrash masterpiece which saw the Germans acquiring a nice spacey, atmospheric vibe thanks to Sjoberg whose guitar wizardry perfectly fit Ralph Hubert’s equally as intricate bass exploits and the band’s traditionally clinical, mathematically precise riffwork.
The band were back in action last year with the 2-tracker “Evolving Transhumanism” which sees them in top form again producing the expected brilliant combination of atmosphere and technicality with more concentration on speed this time both songs flying at the speed of light at times with the sudden stoppages from the roller-coaster also timely provided. Sjoberg has invited his brother Patrick, who also gave him a hand for the recording of “Colonizing the Sun” earlier, to take charge of the drumkit, and has handed out the mike to the complete newcomer Andreas Lyngmo, a decent brutal deathy shouter. Looks and sounds like the proverbial trio; one only has to wait and see how long it will take this time for the band to qualify for the legendary competition at the music festival in Armageddon…
This cd is muuuuuuuuuuuuch better then the debut. Gone are the Meshuggah-esque chugs and gone are the slower songs. TIP have become a new monster. Now that Henrik Ohlsson is the vocalist as well as drummer the band is only three piece, and that is kind of a problem because Johan Ekman's lower growl fir the music better then Henrik's raspy scream. Most of this album (tracks three through seven) is a concept album. It tells the story the end of the world (what a shock) and it's rebirth. The songs are now faster and more ass kicking. The solos aren't any better (could they be?) but they fit the thrashier songs. The lead-off, Dehumanized, is one of the best on the album and is worth the $16 for it alone. The Visionaire has a very long and brilliant solo. All of the concept songs are great minus the pointless piano intro. Escpeicially Prophecies which has probably my favorite Peter Lake solo. All fans of Atheist, Nocturnus, and the last two Death albums must own The Armageddon Theories. Killer.