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Visceral Throne is one of the myriad up-and-coming brutal death metal bands that are attempting to merge standard slamming fare with an extra ounce of pizzazz – or at least so it seems to me. Now don’t get me wrong, there is no shortage of blastbeats and the helter-skelter style of riff arrangement is clearly connected to Suffocation and their ilk, but the song construction itself is really the thing that shines here most. While there are your clear cut transitions of refrain/breakdown into solo, there are also quite a few moments where the band uses a neat little trick to segue into another section.
Take, for instance, the majority of “Epitaph.” There are two major breakdowns and a solo that serve as the focal points of the song’s progression, but the ways that a single snare hit or bass groove gets thrown in between riffs and segues shows a bit more care for the craft. The standard riff after riff hodgepodge is there at times but the slight twist on the formula is what makes a standard brutal death metal band a good one, and there’s quite a bit of potential here for this band.
And that’s probably the only real major disappointment. At times the band is ripping through a flow of riffery, hitting every stopping point for the genre at an above average level, and then suddenly songs like “Conceptual Metamorphosis” seem to be total filler with a few cool riffs that would have been better fit elsewhere and are instead mashed together for the sake of another song. Again, the potential is there but it’s being misused at the moment. As for the riffs themselves, they range between fairly generic but enjoyable slams (“Inherent Spiral of the Human Continuum”) to fretboard flailing (“Ignorant Persistence”), all the way back to those juicy open sections like the first breakdown in the title track, right before the snare transition.
At the same time this can become a bit grating at times. It sounds like a band’s natural debut: attempting to find their sound and getting lost in a tricky dichotomy where they have to show something fresh and exciting or risk being lost to the void of countless others without totally eschewing the principles of the genre. However, this still means there are segments like the Meshuggah-esque breakdown/solo riff in “Transcending Carnality” that are noticeably worse because of this. They’re not inherently bad riffs, but they don’t especially fit the overall groove or grind the song was going for and these begin to add up and make songs feel disjointed. It’s an easily repairable mistake in a few albums’ worth of time, but they unfortunately detract from the overall experience.
One aspect that keeps the album sounding fresh despite occasional missteps is most certainly the production. While very modern, this works well with the combination of surgical technicality and relative experimentation. You don’t want an incredibly fizzy guitar sound with all of these open chords and sixteenth notes, so that’s not what they went for. Simple as. It sounds like a band playing to their strengths in the writing, which happen to be the dense atmosphere and technicality that would have worked with early-90’s era production but instead stands out because of the clearer mix.
Alongside the production, the guitars and drums sound fantastic. Every palm-mute is punctuated and has a specific weight to it, and the sound of that snare keeps me up at night. The crack is perfect for this style, popping out to the forefront in the slams and maintaining distinctness within the blasts. Aesthetically it’s more modern but, again, it’s the band playing to strong suits rather than running in thirteen different directions at once – something they should stick to in their actual writing more often.
The other portions of the band, vocals and bass, are either indecipherable in the case of the bass or pretty generic with the vocals. The bass is very obviously there but doesn’t amount to much more than a clangy smack or an occasional interlude, which is disappointing. Bass in brutal death metal can be used to great effect, and it’s unfortunate to see another band miss out on that. As for the vocals, it’d be nice to hear more all-out insanity a la Luc Lemay or Lord Worm but sometimes my standards are a little too high on vocals. Either way they’re generic but passable.
All in all, it’s pretty good. There are problems, but overall the album is enjoyable. They aren’t a Wormed or Portal but, at the same time, there are those speckles and flashes of creativity and ingenuity in the songwriting that could spell great things for this band. Or they could devolve into another slamfest that I would still gleefully take part in. Either way, I recommend this to fans of brutal death metal with a very slight twist on the tried and true formula. Buy it.
Though I've been a guitar player myself for over 25 years, I must admit that I find myself a little envious of all the sweeping, technical oriented brutal/tech death metal acts out there consisting of members younger than I. Not that this approach always results in memorable albums or strong songwriting, or would be the niche I would wish to participate in; but at the very least they create dextrous, surgical riffing sequences that are fun to follow. By all accounts, recent Brutal Bands acquisition, Indiana's Visceral Throne are another strong contender in this field, even if they offer little we haven't heard before. The performances are tight, the action intense, and you don't walk away from this without some feeling of having been punished, though results will vary for those not fond of the clinical efficiency and polished production usually associated with particular style.
There's not a lot of atmosphere or melody present on Ominpotent Asperity; it's more of a practice in pummeling and precision that swerves between simpler, chugging grooves and walls of nihilistic tremolo riffing. He'll occasionally fire off some striking, dissonant passage with simpler chords, but most often the guitarist keeps things kinetic and intricate, even when laying down a rhythm behind a frenetic lead sequence, and I definitely picked up a strong mid-to-late 90s Suffocation influence along with a lot of hints of Canadian brutality circa Cryptopsy and friends, only ramped up in speed to the appropriate levels you'd expect of West Coast frenzies like Decrepit Birth, etc. A few passages hinge on the slam side of the genre, with more minimal note progressions condensed into palm mutes, just often enough that it creates a nice contrast against the squeals, arpeggios and solos in which the listener can breathe. The drums are equally meticulous, with double bass rhythms clicking along so fast that they simply can't stop to make themselves more forceful, and a resonant, hollow feel to the snare hits which lends the blasting some gravity. The bass is fat and dense to counteract the more precise punctuality of the guitars, but it's not always as adventurous as what you might hear in other acts like Beyond Creation or Augury.
In terms of vocals, I didn't find the performance all that striking, but the deep, blunt amphibian growls are definitely streamlined to fit the highly percussive nature of the riffing patterns, and the guy's got a nice sustain to his gutturals when he barks out a phrase and lets the end syllable ride over a chord shift. The lyrics are neurotic, metaphysical explorations of mankind's failures, barbarity and the darker aims of religion (with a few biblical references), and even if this isn't the most unique subject matter some though obviously went into their composition. Blow for blow, Omniponent Asperity is not the most aggressive, frightening or proficient record of its sort, but there's no question that homework has been done and it deserves a passing grade in any classroom. As seamless and skilled as the performances are all around here, and as level and balanced the production, I did get the feeling that Visceral Throne's biggest hurdle is that they're not highly distinguishable from many others in the field. The riffs seem fluid and formidable when you're in the moment, but they don't often stick to you. But then, if you're a sucker for the rosters of labels like Sevared, Unique Leader, or Brutal Bands you've probably got schematic preconditions for what you're expecting, and Visceral Throne fit that mold just fine; and fans of Inherit Disease, Abnormality, Severed Saviour, Birth Through Gore, Spawn of Possession, Visceral Bleeding and other comparable acts should at least give this a go.
Visceral Throne are yet another up and coming brutal death metal band, just in case we didn't have plenty already. What do Visceral Throne offer that other bands don't? Truthfully? Nothing. This is nothing new or spectacular, but for what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in enjoyability. Just under 28 minutes of catchy, groovy and technical brutal death metal.
The album begins like many albums of this style do. A slow ominous build up before launching straight into a crushing riff and blistering blasts. While the band have the basic guitarwork of this style nailed down with the tremolos and the technical licks, the band also like to throw in some grooving slams as well as quite a few solos. More solos than most bands have been using recently, anyway. The solos on this album are quick bursts of sweeps that really do show this band wanting to stand out over the thousands of uninteresting bands out there. Transcending Carnality is the best example of this, featuring quite a few instances of brilliant shred. The bass is there but only just. It is it times quite muffled by everything else.
The drums are reasonably fast and decent, avoiding the formula of non-stop blasting and actually mixing the blasts with technical fills, but the snare sounds terrible and really drags the album down a couple of points.
Lastly the vocalist. I find it hard to describe his style. It is certainly very guttural, but I just can't find anything to compare it to. He doesn't change it up much either but this is one of those rare cases of a guttural vocalist not needing to change into a variety of inhuman noises to avoid just being there. The grunts are more powerful than your average Matti Way wannabe.
Okay so production and lack of any major originality aside, this is still a solid slab of brutal/technical death metal. Fans of extreme metal who may be sick of all the ridiculously sweepy tech death bands or the boring brutal death metal bands that are all guttural and slams and no substance then pick up this album by Visceral Throne.
Highlights: Omniscient Asperity, Epitaph, Transcending Carnality, Conceptual Metamorphosis
For fans of: Insidious Decrepancy, Suffocation, Abnormality, the last Abominable Putridity album
If you asked someone to imagine a "modern brutal death metal album", the hypothetical album they would think of probably sounds quite similar to Visceral Throne's Omnipotent Asperity. It pretty much sums up everything you'd expect to hear in a technically-inclined BDM album released in 2012... which is to say that I really can't form an opinion on it one way or the other.
I'm at a loss for words as to how exactly to describe this album, probably because I tend to stay away from brutal death which elicits such a response from me, but I guess as far as comparisons go this sounds like Condemned with the added poppiness and riffs of Cerebral Bore, and maybe a bit more slammage thrown in than both of those bands can muster on their own. The end result is...well, it's technical brutal death metal, you already know what it sounds like.
Visceral Throne take a decidedly technical approach to their riffs (but not too technical, gosh, heaven help us if we happen to sound like Brain Drill!), featuring lots of quick tension-building, frantic noodles upwards, with one root note to tremolo to death in between these acrobatic passages. I never thought this approach to riffage was particularly memorable, and my belief is simply reinforced with Omnipotent Asperity. A lot of the riffs and guitar solos used on this album feel like they're just... there, entering and then leaving and not leaving much of an impression once they've passed. This is not the sort of album with melodies you find yourself humming at inappropriate times during social gatherings; nay, rather, I can't say there's much here that sticks with me at all.
Omnipotent Asperity also features a relatively large amount of slams compared to most technical brutal death metal albums you'll stumble across, but they're not used in a manner that is conducive to the general effect brutal death bands usually desire when they employ slams in their music. Which is to say: this shit could slam way harder than it does. The band's guitar tone, which is probably the biggest reason the slams here aren't very thuggin' and brutal, isn't really designed to slam so much as it seems to be made to play the aforementioned noodle riffs. It's thick, but it's also quite flat, doesn't have much bass backing it up, and overall it seems to be a bit too clean to give off an effective atmosphere of chunkiness. In addition, a lot of the slams are a bit too odd for their own good. The band make common errors such as not supplying some of the slams with a steady stream of blasts on the kick pedals, which would make them feel sufficiently crushing, and opting for eighth notes and triplets instead. But there are also flat-out weird decisions in other places, like the strange poppy modern tech-death melodies integrated right into the middle of the slams; or the fact that a lot of the slams practically feel like rolling, meandering death/doom passages composed of chugs instead of catchy beatdown riffs; or for something really odd, the 7/4 slam around the middle of "Inherent Spiral of the Human Continuum" which sounds like djent being played by a brutal death metal band. "Unknown" somehow manages to be pretty badass in the slam department throughout its length, but as a whole the album usually fails to deliver the goods with its slams, because they're either too melodic or tainted by technicality or just victim to an incompetent guitar tone.
Now, where the band do manage to stand out quite a bit is in the vocal department. The vocals here are exclusively a guttural roar which is a lot tonally higher and more defined than your average Angel Ochoa clone (I guess saying that it brings to mind a male, less Scottish version of Som Pluijmers would be a fair comparison), and so the vocal performance here sounds a lot more human than your average BDM band. The end result is interesting, though: the vocals come across as quite unique and anthemic and serve as a strong, loud voice to lead the music forward (even if it isn't too interesting by itself). I'd be quite interested in hearing other BDM bands use this vocal approach in the future, because frankly the scene as a whole needs a bit more experimentation as far as the vocalist's role in the music goes. Most bands are simply content to let their vocalist sit in the background, producing relatively weak or quiet gurgles which essentially act as a bass guitar which makes rabid bear noises, so it's nice to see Visceral Throne using theirs in a more hands-on, involved manner.
I do have praise for the drumkit (the kick pedals aren't too clicky, and the snare DONKs very thickly and loudly and it's quite nice), and the blasty parts are pretty good dumb fun for a short while, but aside from that Omnipotent Asperity evokes a response from me that's about as middling as possible - I mean, I certainly don't hate it, but I can't really point out many parts of this and say anything more than "hmm, yes, okay". It's probably more of a matter of personal preference rather than the band's faults that dictate why I don't particularly like this; I've never been big on "technical brutal death metal" and I'm completely fine with thinking that BDM never got any more technical than "Babykiller". You may as well give Omnipotent Asperity a chance if you're a fan of bands like Condemned and Defeated Sanity, but all-in-all this album is not, and probably will not ever be my cup of tea.